Credit Scenarios to Improve Your Collection Rate

For the sake of your company’s bottom line and continued good relationships with good customers who fall behind on their bills, it’s important to know what condition their finances are in when things go wrong.

That way, when circumstances change and some of your customers become hard pressed to make payments, you can tailor your approach to their individual needs. If you can modify your accounts collection process to match the financial scenario, you will be able to keep your best customers happy and preserve your business relationship. Read more

Zimbabwe Court rules national pledge is unconstitutional

The Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on Monday ruled that the country’s national pledge was an unconstitutional violation of school children’s right to freedom of conscience and parental rights.

The court’s decision comes four years after Mathew Sogolani applied to the court on the basis of the national pledge’s unconstitutionality. The father of three argued that the national pledge amounted to “fascist propaganda.” Sogolani was represented by David Hofisi of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who filed Sogolani’s application in April 2016. The application called for the court to suspend the mandatory recitation of the pledge in schools. The national pledge went into effect in May 2016.

Sogolani took issue with the pledge’s inclusion of the term “Almighty God” in an otherwise secular pledge:

Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. United in our diversity by our common desire from freedom, justice and equality. Respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are creators and participants in our vibrant traditions and cultures. We commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.

As a member of the Apostolic Faith Mission church, Sogolani found the inclusion of religious language in government “offensive to his faith.” Hofisi argued that the pledge violated Sogolani’s constitutional rights todignity, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equal protection of the law. He also told the court that the pledge was written “in the manner of an oath, a prayer and seems, in the very least, a religious observance.” Sogolani argued that the pledge misused the language of shared by his faith by including God in an oath otherwise addressed to the nation of Zimbabwe.

At the time of its introduction, then Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Professor Paul Mavhima defended the national pledge by pointing to similar customs in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Both countries include a pledge/oath of allegiance before commencing official government matters. But the court rejected this argument and found for Hofisi and Sogolani.

Federal appeals court blocks Cuomo’s limits on religious gatherings in New York

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Monday that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on the number of attendees at religious gatherings were likely to be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Court enjoined the state from enforcing these limits, put in place to address the spread of COVID-19 in areas with the highest prevalence.

Governor Cuomo issued an executive order in October that categorized areas into “zones,” which were assigned colors corresponding to their COVID-19 rates. In all zones, a capacity limit was imposed on houses of worship, but not on essential businesses.

These measures were reviewed by the Supreme Court in late November, and it held similarly that the executive order be blocked because the plaintiffs, including Agudath Israel of America and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, were likely to succeed in challenging these measures once the case was fully litigated.

The Second Circuit took particular issue with the separate identification of houses of worship for certain restrictions. It found the classification of essential businesses versus non-essential businesses, which also have different restrictions, to be “questionable” in some cases. It pointed to the fact that Cuomo “has not asserted that his categorization of businesses as ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ was based on any assessment of COVID-19 transmission risk.” Particularly, Cuomo failed to cite data supporting his belief that places of worship have greater transmission rates.

Allen & Overy and Khoshaim & Associates end cooperation agreement

Firms will continue to work together but say a looser arrangement suits their strategic needs

Allen & Overy (A&O) and its Saudi Arabian partner Khoshaim & Associates (K&A) have ended their co-operation agreement with both sides stating the benefits of working with a wider range of law firms.

The exclusive agreement was struck in 2012 with Allen & Overy marketing the relationship on its website and through joint announcements. It was quietly shelved on 9 October, although both sides have stressed they will continue to work closely going forward.

“We have seen an increase in the volume and range of matters for which clients are seeking support in Saudi Arabia,” A&O said in a statement. “In order to increase our capacity to meet this demand we have taken the decision to work with a broader range of law firms in the Kingdom.”

K&A managing partner Zeyad Khoshaim added: “This joint decision serves each firm’s strategic interests. For K&A, it allows us to be independent and work with other firms, including US-based firms. This opens up opportunities to work on a wider set of matters and service clients from the US, amongst other jurisdictions with strong ties to Saudi Arabia.”

K&A, which is based in Riyadh, has four partners, three counsel and around 35 lawyers. It is highly rated in the Chambers and Partners directory with Khoshaim ranked as a Band 1 individual.

Khoshaim – who originally joined A&O as a partner in 2010 – said the practice had grown into a full-service firm, expanding its partnership and opening an office in Jeddah.

He added that the multi-billion-dollar Vision 2030 strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil had generated a lot of interest from US companies . This, he said, “put the firm in a good position to advise US-based companies like AMC and Johns Hopkins University on their investments, and collaborate with other firms with specialised expertise on mega deals like Saudi Aramco’s acquisition of SABIC, Saudi Aramco’s IPO, and the SAMBA/NCB merger”.

For its part, A&O, which has regional offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, underlined its Middle East credentials.

“As one of the law firms with the longest established presences in the Middle East,” it said, “we remain committed to the region and we believe this decision will best serve our clients in Saudi Arabia and around the world in the longer term.”

In August, the two firms cooperated on two major deals for Saudi Electricity Company; a $2.4bn syndicated murabaha facility agreement provided by a syndicate of Saudi banks and and a %1.3bn dual-tranche green sukuk. A&O’s Dubai team advised on the first deal with a London team spearheading work on the latter.

In March A&O ended its longstanding alliance with its Romanian ally in a move that saw six-partner Radu Taracila Padurari Retevoescu (RTPR) relaunch as a standalone practice.

However, in January the magic circle UK firm become the latest international practice to forge a formal alliance with a local practice in Shanghai.

What’s A Lawyer Now? Law’s Shift From Practice To Skill

During a recent visit to the National University of Singapore Law School (NUS), I asked a first-year student what being a lawyer meant to him. His response was thoughtful and prescient: “I regard law as a skill. I plan to leverage my legal training and meld it with my passion for business, technology, and policy. For me, law is not about practice.” Out of the mouths of babes!

Why The Practice/Skill Distinction Matters

The distinction between practicing law and engaging in the delivery of legal services—the business of law–is critically important to a wide range of existing and prospective legal industry stakeholders. That list includes: those contemplating a legal career (not necessarily licensure); law students; the legal Academy; allied professional programs (e.g. business, engineering, computer science); practicing lawyers; legal providers; legal consumers; and the broader society.

Why does this distinction matter? Because law—like so many industries—is undergoing a tectonic shift. It is morphing from a lawyer dominated, practice-centric, labor-intensive guild to a tech-enabled, process and data-driven, multi-disciplinary global industry. The career paths, skills, and expectations of lawyers are changing. So too are how, when, and on what financial terms they are engaged; with whom and from what delivery models they work; their performance metrics, and the resources—human and machine—they collaborate with.  Legal practice is shrinking and the business of delivering legal services is expanding rapidly.

Law is no longer the exclusive province of lawyers. Legal knowledge is not the sole element of legal delivery—business and technological competencies are equally important. It’s a new ballgame—one that most lawyers are unprepared for. Law schools continue to focus on doctrinal law even as traditional practice positions are harder to come by—especially for newly-minted grads.

Law firms have yet to materially change  hiring criteria or to accord equal status and compensation to allied legal professionals. Several large firms have recently announced the launch of ancillary business of law offerings. That requires different workforces, processes, technology platforms, reward systems, organizational structures, capital and capabilities from traditional law firms. It also requires client-centricity and an alignment with business that is generally lacking among law firms.  Translation: it’s easier announced than delivered, especially when the law companies are led by law firm partners whose careers have been forged in different structural and economic models.

Lawyers in the early and middle-stages of their careers are caught in the shifting currents of law’s transformation. Legal knowledge is becoming a skill to be leveraged with new competencies. It is no longer, by itself, sufficient to forge a successful legal career. Most mid-career lawyers  tend to be resistant to change even as the necessity to do so becomes more acute by the day. Older lawyers are riding out the change storm and banking they will make it until retirement.

How did we get here and are legal careers  for most a dead end? Spoiler alert: there’s tremendous opportunity in the legal industry. The caveat: all lawyers must have basic business and technological competency whether they pursue practice careers or leverage their legal knowledge as a skill in legal delivery and/or allied professional careers.

Legal Practice: Back To Basics

What is legal practice? It is rendering service to clients competently,  zealously and within legal and ethical boundaries. Lawyers make this compact not only with clients that retain them but also with society for whom they serve as the ultimate defenders of the rule of law. There are three main elements of practice; legal expertise, judgment, and persuasion. Practicing attorneys are in the persuasion business whether they engage in trials or transactions. Persuasion has several elements: emotional intelligence, credibility, command of the legal craft, and earning trust—of  the client, opposing counsel, and the trier of fact in contested matters.

Legal practice was the presumptive career path of most lawyers for generations.  As law firms grew—especially from the 1970’s-the global financial crisis of 2007–fewer lawyers had direct client interaction. Client skills eroded, and the legal zeitgeist turned inward. The attorney’s supervisor(s) became the client proxy. Most lawyers were unaware of the clients’ objectives, risk tolerance, and business challenges. Legal practice, especially for younger lawyers, often involved tedious, repetitious, high-volume/low-value work. Many lawyers became bored, disillusioned, and unaware of what legal practice means from the client perspective.

Generations of lawyers—especially those in large law firms—were high-priced, well-paid cogs in the law firm wheel. Their principal mission was to satisfy billing and realization goals in pursuit of the partnership gold ring. It was not for them to question the materiality of their work or to assess its value relative to cost or outcome. High salaries created a false positive measure of their client value. They were far removed from the client and worked on discrete slivers of matters. This was their “practice.” The firm—not the client—was the entity to serve and to satisfy. Firms focused on profit-per-partner (PPP), not net-promoter score (NPS).

Legal practice for many lawyers has been diluted. That’s not an indictment of attorneys or a slight to their intelligence, diligence, and ability to make better use of their licenses. Susan Hackett and Karl Chapman describe this underutilization as working “at the bottom of the license.” Too many lawyers are doing just that, and that’s one reason why legal buyers are migrating work once performed by law firms to new provider sources. Optimization of value—deploying the right resource to the appropriate task—is a foundational element of business in the digital age. The legal industry is lagging.

Clients continue to pay a premium for those lawyers—and a handful of firms– with differentiated practice skills. This is a narrow band of practitioners that work “at the top of their license” on the highest-value client matters. Legal buyers are increasingly balking at paying such a premium to others. The universe of high-value, “bet the company” work is a small fraction of legal work. This diverges from law’s go-go decades when lawyers and firms perpetuated the myth that all work they performed was “bespoke.”

Regulators in the UK and a handful of other jurisdictions have opened the door to other professionals (“non-lawyers” in legal parlance) handling many tasks once performed exclusively by lawyers. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has  winnowed down the list of “regulated activities” –those requiring licensed attorneys– from a far broader range of lawyer/law firm activities. In the U.S., corporate clients are narrowing that list on their own. The myth of legal exceptionalism has been debunked.

The Business of Law Is a Response to Practice Inflation and The Need For New Skills

Corporate clients, not lawyers, now determine what’s “legal” and when licensed attorneys are required (it’s a different but changing story in the retail legal segment). That’s why legal practice is compressing and the business of delivering legal services—the business of law—is expanding. It’s also why so much capital is being pumped into “alternative legal service providers” and why their market share is increasingly briskly. The 2019 Georgetown/Thomson Reuters Report on the State of the Legal Market (The Georgetown Report) chronicles the migration of work from firms and highlights several of its causes. The Report calls for “rebuilding the law firm model.”  Law firms continue to be practice-centric and inward-focused (to maximize PPP) in a marketplace that is becoming customer-centric, digital, data-based, tech-enabled, diverse, agile, multidisciplinary, and cost-effective.

Where does this leave lawyers? We are, paradoxically, returning to what it meant to be a lawyer before the ranks of the profession swelled and law firms became highly profitable, undifferentiated big box stores. Practice is once again becoming the province of those lawyers best equipped to engage in it. For the larger universe of the profession, their careers will take a different turn. Most practice careers will morph into delivering legal services—the business of law– and/or to allied professions and businesses. For most lawyers, legal expertise will become a skill, not a practice.

The new legal career paths—and there are many– require new skillsets, mindsets, and a focus on serving clients/customers. Upskilling the legal profession is already a key issue, a requisite for career success. Lawyers must learn new skills like project management, data analytics, deployment of technology, and process design to leverage their legal knowledge. Simply knowing the law will not cut it anymore. The good news is that many lawyers will be liberated from the drudgery of faux practice careers. Armed with new skills, they will be have a plethora of career paths.

Practice in the Age of End-to-End Solutions

The distinction clients draw between high-value legal expertise and everything else in their portfolios explains the marked divide between approximately twenty elite firms and the pack. This small cadre of firms handle a disproportionate percentage of premium “bet-the-company” work and are paid commensurately. It also explains the ascendency of the alternative legal service providers that now handle more and increasingly complex work once sourced solely to law firms. These providers are not yet vying for premium legal work, but they are in the hunt for everything else. They hold a distinct edge over law firms because of their customer-centricity, alignment with business, DNA,  structural organization, economic model, technology platforms, capital, multidisciplinary, agile, diverse workforces, delivery capability, scalability, and cost-predictability and efficiency.

Companies like the Big Four, UnitedLex, Axiom, and Burford Capital  are already home to thousands of attorneys– as well as engineers, data analysts, consultants, technologists, and other allied legal professionals. Their attorney headcount will increase  in the coming years due to client demand and heightening pressure on the non-elite partnership model law firms. For most attorneys that work in these companies, law will be a is skill, not practice. That’s why legal knowledge must be augmented by other competencies to enable lawyers to make the transition from firms. There is also a cultural component to the transformation: success is measured by results and client satisfaction, not by hours billed.

Conclusion

The new legal career is about melding legal knowledge with other competencies to better serve clients and to solve problems. Whether that’s termed practice or delivery, the client is once again the focus. Law is returning to its service roots and that’s a good thing.

What does this mean  to those contemplating becoming a lawyer?  The decision to attend three years of law school, incur six-figure debt (it’s different outside the U.S.), and secure licensure is a personal one that involves many variables. Other paths to a meaningful legal career exist and more will be available in the near future.

Emma Watson

Harry Potter star Emma Watson launches legal advice helpline

Free service includes guidance on NDAs and settlement agreements

A free helpline backed by British actor and activist Emma Watson will offer free legal advice to women in England and Wales who have experienced sexual harassment at work.

The expert guidance is supplied by legal charity Rights of Women, whose female volunteers and employment lawyers will offer callers guidance on what behaviour constitutes sexual harassment, how to bring a claim at an employment tribunal, as well advice on settlement and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Kickstarted from donations from members of the public, including Watson, the specialist service enjoys backing from Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality Fund, and is managed by Rosa, the UK Fund for Women and Girls. It stands as the UK’s only free legal helpline for women facing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The new dedicated telephone line follows findings by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), a federation of trade unions in England and Wales, that as many as one in two women experienced sexual harassment at work.

“While sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of violence against women, it has remained a hidden issue with many women believing it was an inevitable part of their jobs or that it would jeopardise their careers to assert their legal rights,” explained Seyi Newell, a senior legal officer at Rights of Women.

By plugging the gap in workplace protection, it is hoped that women will be empowered to hold their harassers and employer to account. Harry Potter star Watson said:

Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them, and the choices you have if you’ve experienced harassment, is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone, and this advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work.

In the wake of the global #MeToo movement, which has seen women come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, Watson regards this service as a step in the right direction. She continues:

“It finally feels like people are realising the scale of the problem, and I’m certainly hopeful that with global standards such as the recent International Labour Organisation treaty on harassment at work, we’ll start to see a new climate of prevention and accountability on this issue domestically.”

A rise in the number of sexual misconduct cases across the legal profession has resulted in an increased workload for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), according to a recent report.

The regulator has also recently faced mounting pressure from MPs to clampdown on the ‘cover-up culture’, which sees lawyers draft up questionable NDAs to prevent alleged victims of sexual assault or harassment from speaking out.

Brexit: PM under fire over new Brexit plan

Theresa May will make the case for her new Brexit plan in Parliament later, amid signs that Conservative opposition to her leadership is hardening.

The prime minister will outline changes to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – including a promise to give MPs a vote on holding another referendum.

But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the offer was “too weak”.

Some senior Tories will today ask party bosses for a rule change to allow a no-confidence vote in her leadership.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove defended the PM’s plan, urging MPs to “take a little bit of time and step back” to “reflect” on the detail of the bill – due to be published later today.

Fellow cabinet minister and prominent Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom said she was “looking very carefully at the legislation” and “making sure that it delivers Brexit”.

MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU three times, and attempts to find a formal compromise with Labour have failed.

On Tuesday, the prime minister asked MPs to take “one last chance” to deliver a negotiated exit – or risk Brexit not happening at all.

But several Tory MPs have criticised her plan. Among them, Nigel Evans will today urge party bosses on the 1922 committee to change party rules to allow for an immediate vote of no-confidence in Mrs May.

Because the PM survived such a vote in December, the current rules say she cannot face another for 12 months.

The committee has said ‘no’ to such a change before.

But the Conservative Home website has urged people not to vote for the party in Thursday’s European elections if Mrs May is still in post “by the end of today”.