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

Iberian nights (and days)

Editors' views

Continuing her European tour, EMEA editor Ella Marshall reflects on Ronaldo, cherrypicking, and changing networking practices in Portugal

Last month, I spent some time in Lisbon to attend the GC Powerlist Iberia (Portugal) and meet with several law firms ahead of The Legal 500’s next EMEA guide. For the converted, I don’t need to proselytise on what a fantastic city Portugal’s capital is, something that has been recognised by the many multinational companies …

How to stand out within a sea of sameness


In an increasingly competitive international marketplace, David H. Freeman considers what it takes for law firms to truly differentiate themselves

While differentiation is a process, a solid culture is the defining characteristic of any organisation. And make no mistake, your firm has a culture; whether authored by you or not. Anthropologist Philip Folsom will tell you that any ‘tribe’ or group collective develops its own working style. Successful tribes/organisations craft a culture based on two …

Carolina Zang: Innovation is an attitude, it’s the new lifestyle

Interview with...

Zang, Bergel & Viñes Abogados’s managing partner discusses the need to think big, why diversity is the new cultural norm, and why managing people can be the biggest challenge

How would you define your firm’s culture? How important is firm culture to you? Firm culture is extremely important. In fact, it is absolutely critical to business performance, hiring, retention, and innovation. After many years of promoting the best work policies and putting together an amazing team, we have established a very strong culture in …

Resistance to change

Editors' views

Amid efforts to recognise more of the best female lawyers, the reaction from some old-school partners highlights the challenge of shaking up the status quo, writes Georgina Stanley

Right now The Legal 500’s UK research team are putting the final touches to their rankings. I’m hopeful that when we launch the 2020 UK Solicitors guide later this autumn it will show that we have achieved one of the aims I set out when I joined – to boost diversity, and, in particular, increase …

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 …