Tesco Law: Aussies Recolonise UK?

Today’s big development is the purchase of Russell Jones & Walker by Australian firm Slater & Gordon, the first law firm in the world to float. The deal is subject to SRA ABS approval, and to some caveats. Details are here and here.

The first point to note is that there are law firms that are worth others buying. RJ&W however has in addition their heavily advertised Claims Direct brand. This shows the advantage of an early businesslike approach to running a firm.

Secondly, RJ&W senior management will receive S&G shares as part of the purchase price. When they move on or retire, they can simply sell the shares, or hold them as an investment. The firm will not have to find cash to pay them out, as would be the case with a traditional partner.

The third interesting point is that this is the purchase of one law firm by another, rather than by a new player in the market. It remains to be seen whether say the banks will take the same approach (and who will be left to buy).

So there is a lot to be said for building a law firm worth buying, even if you decide not to sell!

Leadership and Neuroscience

I was at a very interesting talk at Squire Sanders through Birmingham Forward last night. The speaker was Amy Brann of Synaptic Potential.

The subject is huge, so obviously Amy was only able to provide an overview, but tying some scientific theory to the more traditional observational approach to leadership was useful.

One point she made was that micromanaging people tends to set off the threat response. This increases the use of both oxygen and glucose, decreasing mental functioning. At the same time, cortisol is released, slowing thinking and decreasing immunity.

Tied to this is the need for autonomy, or at least perceived autonomy. 3M allow researchers to spend 15% of their time on their own research, while Google allow 20%. This version of motivated autonomy has produced the PostIt Note and Gmail, among other products.

Again this is not new, but neuroscience is justifying (and sometimes challenging) the observational work.

The science also provides ways to manipulate clients and staff, again nothing new in itself. How far this is ethical is an interesting question. It strikes me that there are so many people trying to manipulate me (shops, charities, the media, spammers, sales people) that it triggers my own threat response!

Snookered by Work Life Balance?

Half asleep this morning I switched on the radio to hear that snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan was concerned about his work life balance. This is connected to the fact that he recently became a father (and may also be related to his well publicised battle with depression).

The reaction of snooker’s governing body was that he was entitled to choose which tournaments to play, but that as the number of tournaments increases he might slip down the rankings. (5 new tournaments in China alone).

So far, so good. He is neither employed nor a mother, so there can be no suggestions of being confined to the “Mommy Track”. Is this not an illustration of the fact that choices have consequences?

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Work Life Balance for Employers

I was at an interesting seminar this morning with Challinors Solicitors, on work life balance. The guest speaker was Terence Hogarth of the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick.

Although work life balance and flexible working were somewhat conflated (and I do not want to play the definitions game) his view was that there was a potential benefit to employers. One question is whether work balance issues are actually a product of a tight labour market, which is not the case at present. Only time will tell if this is true or not.

The benefit to employers? A recession often means losing staff and thus talent. When the upturn comes, talent again has to be brought in, which means that it also has to be bought in. When other employers are doing the same, there is likely to be an inflationary bidding war for talent.

Keeping talent by showing flexibility on both sides can avoid many of these problems, and build and maintain staff loyalty. That said, large corporates may find this more sustainable than would small businesses,

Tesco Law Continuing

Interesting reports in the Gazette this week as the SRA is finally able to license ABSs. The number of applicants is “over 10”, and guess what? Tesco has not applied. Interesting to see if they will at some point.

The supermarket that we know to have applied is the Coop (though it is obviously much more than that).Saga and the AA have not yet applied. No news of the RAC.

Several solicitors firms,notably Irwin Mitchell, wish to be ABSs as well, presumably to attract outside investment. The Parabis Group is also mentioned.

No doubt further news will trickle out over the 9 months that the SRA expect to take. This though from the organisation that has difficulty renewing in renewing practising certificates.