It’s Thursday and the 12-strong editorial team at The Lawyer is finalising the news for tomorrow’s press day.
As usual we have plenty of amazing leads, but none of our potential cover stories are stood up yet.
This is normal, for although The Lawyer is a City publication, we hardly ever write on-diary stories and most of our reporting is investigative.
While law firms and barristers’ chambers are large and profitable businesses, none of them are public companies with shareholders to announce to. Consequently they like to keep their sensitive information secret. But we still have to find it.
The law firms that make up the UK’s £9bn industry are partnerships, and each partner has a shareholding in the business and therefore a share of the massive profits.
This week the team is working on a complex story about the world’s biggest law firm, Clifford Chance (CC).
CC is asking partners who have a profit share in the business in effect to foot £100,000 – equating to £30m – each as it embarks on a massive reorganisation of its capital base.
There is no press conference, no statement and the firm declines to comment, but editor Catrin Griffiths and associate editor Dearbail Jordan pull the story off.
Our understanding of the world of law firm finances comes from the work we do every year putting together the 140-page The Lawyer 100.
It reveals the finances of the top 100 UK law firms, top 30 US firms in London and the top 30 barristers chambers, which generate reams of national press coverage. In fact, the national press loves stories about lawyers’ earnings and fees.
Last month, we broke the story that Gordon Pollock, the QC acting for the liquidators of BCCI in the ongoing £1bn High Court case against the Bank of England, had been paid £3m for preparing the trial. That was followed up on the front page of The Times and subsequently referenced throughout the national media.
The Lawyer: Clifford Chance splash
The Lawyer goes to press today.
I arrive at work at 8.30am, knowing that I will be here for at least 12 hours before we put the paper to bed.
By the afternoon we are all flagging, still recovering from the party we held at the beginning of the week in honour of The Hot 100, a list of the country’s brightest and best lawyers that we publish in January. Nearly 400 managing partners, top QCs and judges turned up to drink champagne and it went on into the small hours.
Still, we get the front page together – the CC internal finances, a Parmalat exclusive and a story on a maverick judge, which has got litigators talking.
After a week of law, business, politics, parties and PRs I head home to watch anything mindless on the TV and flick through Heat magazine.
Monday morning – four days until press day comes around again. I arrive looking forward to a quiet day of reading The Lawyer, looking through the newspapers, discussing features and deciding with the rest of the team the editorial agenda for the week. But there is much to do, particularly as The Lawyer now breaks news on its website at the rate of two stories an hour.
Today the secretary of state for constitutional affairs, Lord Falconer, outlines his plans for a new Supreme Court. He is criticised by a Commons select committee for rushing into things, meaning I must rush to secure briefings with the relevant civil servants and MPs.
Today I enjoy a long lunch with a good contact before joining a colleague and another contact for drinks and dinner.
The Lawyer cannot rely on press releases to fill its pages, so maintaining good relationships with trusted contacts is key.
One of the best parts of this job is flitting around the capital’s swankier restaurants and cocktail bars, feeling like a fully paid-up member of “Posh London”. It is something I could not afford to do in my own time on a journalist’s wages.
I have to file 400 words of copy in between courses. This is quite something as a story I have been researching for two days falls over in the afternoon.
Luckily, at 4pm somebody I had lunch with last week e-mails me with a good lead.
Yesterday the the Financial Times published an interview with Robert Finch, Lord Mayor of London and partner with law firm Linklaters, who is calling for a new building for the Commercial Court, which is currently housed in a dilapidated office block off The Strand.
The Lawyer has been running a campaign for a new Commercial Court for nearly a year, and we published an interview with Finch on the same subject in November. The FT’s coverage has put the Commercial Court back at the top of the news agenda, so I spend the morning calling judges and civil servants for an update.
Matheu Swallow, deputy editor, is taking care of Grapevine, The Lawyer’s Wednesday e-mail news feed which goes out to more than 30,000 subscribers.
Last week’s Grapevine, which was written by Dearbail, had a good piece on Parmalat which was picked up by the Evening Standard City pages.
Tomorrow is Thursday, the start of the news reporting period for Monday’s issue. We have some amazing leads. Business as usual.