Editor's Letter

July / August issue front cover image

Inspirational and often unattributed quotes about the importance of customer service are a dime a dozen online, especially on LinkedIn where the same old ‘profound’ statements (yes, those are sarcastic quote marks) are posted again and again by deep thinkers intent on selling themselves or their product as far and wide as their contact list will take them. Nevertheless, one quote posted on the social network has stuck with me: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Occasionally, I will still hear a solicitor or barrister rail against the practice of law as a business or service, rather than the ‘higher calling’ vocation of yesteryear. The vast majority of lawyers, however, understand the importance of nailing customer service in a competitive marketplace. It is a given that a partner at a top firm, or a silk in a leading chambers, can provide clients with an explanation of relevant law, but – and our research reinforces this – clients increasingly want value add for the money you bill them. For your firm or set, that just might be exceptional client service.

That’s a long-winded way of introducing this summer’s issue of fivehundred which has a special focus on the client care. Georgina Stanley explains how a major new research project from The Legal 500 has identified those firms making client service a key differentiator; Eversheds Sutherland’s Marcello Floris warn fellow partners not to overlook the basics of client service; while from the client side, Marriott Asia Pacific’s Law Department offers an in-house view on what firms can do better to become trusted, long-term business partners ; and, I explain how client feedback affects your rankings.

The July/August issue also continues our look at diversity, and as it’s Pride season what better time to look at LGBT+ inclusion in Big Law. Amy Ulliott speaks to representatives of Pinsent Masons, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, and Baker McKenzie – the three highest ranked law firms in Stonewall’s best employers for LGBT+ people in 2019 – on how their firms have championed equality in the workplace.

When it comes to gender diversity, Loyens & Loeff’s Mijke Sinninghe Damsté explains how she had to prove she was still capable and ambitious enough for partnership following the birth of her first child, while Georgina Stanley reports on how some old-school partners, wedded to the status quo, have been far from receptive to The Legal 500’s efforts to recognise more of the best female lawyers.

We also hear about Kirkland & Ellis’ firm-wide trial advocacy and litigation attorney training programme, which prepares associates for all the courtroom can throw at them, while the leaders of K&L Gates, Payne Hicks Beach, Crowell & Moring, Galicia Abogados, and Zang, Bergel & Viñes Abogados explain what makes their firms standout in their respective markets.

And don’t worry, chambers, we haven’t forgotten about you!  Steven Gee QC explains why he returned to the independent Bar and what he learnt from operating in the law firm environment; Andrew Spink reflects on COMBAR’s recent key achievements and talks about the challenges ahead for the commercial Bar; and senior clerk Joe Ferrigno explains how he has future-proofed Essex Court Chambers’ clerking function.

The team is now off for a well-deserved summer break but we’ll be back in September with more free, exclusive content from the best lawyers, firms, and chambers worldwide. See you then!

John van der Luit-Drummond

Striking a balance

Career Corner

Mijke Sinninghe Damsté explains how she combined family life with partnership, and how Loyens & Loeff aims to do the same for its next generation of partners

Ever since my first year in university, I knew that I wanted to become a lawyer. It seemed to be the perfect combination of finding creative solutions for challenging problems and applying social skills to reach common goals, either through litigation or negotiations. I even remember the exact moment: after winning a moot court challenge …

James Segerdahl: Price is a poor proxy for quality or value

Interview with...

K&L Gates’ global managing partner on the influence of legal tech, alternatives to the billable hour, and what business drivers are critical to clients

How is technology changing the way you meet client needs? Which areas will be most affected by new tech? We have sought to be very proactive in utilising technology to meet client needs because it is a key vehicle for delivery of value to clients. Much of the focus in the business of law is …

Reflections of a commercial silk

The Bar

As Andrew Spink QC finishes his two-year term as COMBAR chair, the co-head of Outer Temple Chambers looks back on the association’s recent key achievements and talks about the challenges ahead for the commercial Bar

It’s been an exciting time to chair the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), a specialist bar association (SBA) representing the cream of English and Welsh barristers advising the international business community. With 1,600 individual barristers and 38 leading chambers, COMBAR is a hallmark of excellence, with members advising and appearing as advocates and arbitrators in high-value, …

Robert Brodrick: Innovation from a different perspective

Interview with...

Payne Hicks Beach’s new chair explains the importance of being empathic when acting for ultra-high-net-worth clients, and why lawyers should put themselves in their clients’ shoes

What made you want to become the new chair of Payne Hicks Beach and what do you hope to achieve? It is a great honour to be responsible for a firm that has been around for almost 300 years. The private client landscape has altered dramatically in the last 25 years with an explosion of …

How do the best law firms stay ahead of the pack?

The Big Issue: Client Service

Marriott Asia Pacific’s Law Department offers an in-house view on what external counsel can do better to become trusted, long-term business partners

External counsels often face the question: ‘What do in-house lawyers really want from their external counsel?’ In-house teams act as gatekeepers who deliver legal advice to their colleagues in various practice areas around the clock. Due to the huge work volume, external counsel can become a significant ally in helping to alleviate work pressure, provide …

Manuel Galicia R: The process of institutionalisation

Interview with...

Galicia Abogados’ founding partner talks about developing his firm in Mexico, incentivising innovation, and what associates must do to make partner

How would you define your firm’s culture? How important is firm culture to you? Our firm’s culture is based on (i) collaboration and respect in order to offer the best possible multidisciplinary service in the market; (ii) helping our clients to make business happen and to make better business decisions; and (iii) assuring the best …

Building a modern clerks’ room

The Bar

Fresh from an internal restructure, senior clerk Joe Ferrigno explains how he has future-proofed Essex Court Chambers clerking function amid an evolving legal landscape

On becoming sole senior clerk at Essex Court Chambers I reflected that as the Bar, and indeed the world, has modernised, so too has the role of the barrister’s clerk. What a complete transition it has been – from chambers comprising 15 barristers to sets now in the hundreds; low key business development has evolved …

Kristof Roox and Thomas De Meese: Managing partners shouldn’t hide behind their role

Interview with...

The leaders of Crowell & Moring Brussels on the challenges of management, growth, and why law firm culture is key for clients and fee earners

How would you define your firm’s culture? Our firm was founded in the US in 1979 by a group of lawyers, staff, and clients who left a large corporate firm because they believed in doing things differently. Four decades later, this belief is still a cornerstone of the firm’s culture. Our Brussels office was started …

The uncertain road to equity


In an era where the partnership track is more epic journey than career path, how can those for whom equity partnership is still the Holy Grail navigate a steady course to the top? Definitive Consulting’s Craig Hoyland details the questions equity hopefuls must ask themselves

In my experience, the biggest issue for anyone focused on making equity is the chronic lack of clarity from employers about what it takes to get there. Not a week goes by without a salaried partner contacting me after being passed over for equity status, without explanation. In that kind of scenario, it is all …

Client Service Awards – What clients really want

Editors' views

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, client service can be a key differentiator for law firms. Georgina Stanley explains how a major new research project from The Legal 500 has set out to identify those making the best impression

Stewarts, Mishcon de Reya, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges have emerged among the top-performing law firms for client service in the UK, according to brand new Legal 500 research assessing what clients really think about their external advisers. The trio are among a host of leading US and UK firms to have been recognised by …