John Malpas


Arrive at work to find my desk looking like a paper recycling centre, as is customary for the day after press day. Normally, Wednesday is the getting out and about, pressing the flesh day. But today I have a mountain of pages to proof for our special student edition, which is going to press. The student special serves as a guide on how tomake a career in what is a lucrative but highly competitive profession.

I get a call from a national journalist keen to follow up a snippet in the Diary about a group of City lawyers who were spotted in a lap dancing club. It reminds me of the infamous time the global giant Clifford Chance held a press party to improve relations with the legal press.

It backfired spectacularly when one of the partners had the bright idea of taking a bunch of hacks to Spearmint Rhino. It leaked out, and although going to lap dancing clubs is entirely legal, the fact a law firm was involved gave the story legs, so to speak.


Pop over to Paris to attend an awards ceremony for lawyers we are sponsoring. Business law, which is our ‘beef’, is international, and Legal Week takes its international coverage extremely seriously.

I discover that legal awards ceremonies in Paris are very similar to those in London, except the language is different and the names of the US and UK firms in contention are pronounced differently.

I sit next to a former high-ranking figure in France’s Ministry of Justice.

He chides the UK government for sweeping away centuries of tradition with its plans to abolish the historic post of Lord Chancellor, create a Supreme Court and establish an independent judicial appointments commission.

A partner at one of the leading Paris firms tells me that competition in the Paris market is hotting up, due to an influx of US law firms, some of which are undercutting heavily on fees. We have reported the same thing happening in London, but the fact it is now taking place in France is interesting.

The ceremony, which takes place at a theatre near the Arc de Triomphe, is very well attended and is an undoubted success. But it falls into the trap of being too long.

When the hall starts to empty before the final gongs are handed out I cheerfully remark to a man sitting on an empty table that people evidently reckon it is bed time.

I discover why he is still at his seat when he gets called up to present the lifetime achievement award.


As is customary, the pace begins to quicken at Legal Week on day three of the weekly cycle. With the weekend looming there is a last-minute hitch with one of the features, which needs to be sent to the printers first thing on Monday morning. But it is nothing the features team cannot handle.

As always, I have a good laugh proofing our Diary page, although one item doesn’t make it past our long-suffering libel lawyer.

I have always regarded this page, which all the reporters and features writers are expected to contribute to, as a vital indicator of the health of this magazine, or any other for that matter.

The awards theme continues when I attend an internal meeting to discuss the judging for the Legal Week awards, which we are staging in December. I warn against the dangers of letting them go on too long.

I also have a look at a new design for our website and make some suggestions on how to improve it.

Meanwhile, we get in on the ongoing Manchester United takeover story. We learn that law firm Allen & Overy has been getting grief from irate Manchester United fans for advising US sports entrepreneur Malcolm Glazer on his push to acquire the footballing giant.

The firm has sealed its office entrances after being deluged with abusive phone calls and emails.

We post the story in the breaking news section of our website after acceding to the request of the partners involved not to name them for fear they may be targeted personally.


Monday is always an important day. While the features pages make their way to the printers, the reporters are starting to get really stuck into the news. A priority for me is to work out what I am going to write for the comment.

I stumble across a significant speech by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, on the constitutional reforms.

In it, Woolf underlines the historic importance of the changes, which promise to be a lasting legacy of this government.

I resolve to bring our readers up to date with the progress of the reforms, before heading off to a drinks reception being held by one of the many US law firms that have been building up their presence in London.

At the reception, being held tomark the firm’s move into smart new City offices, a banking lawyer from South Africa tells me that we Brits take our judicial system for granted.

Another partner discusses the cultural differences between working for UK and US law firms.

The speeches are mercifully short, but a Chinese ‘lion dance’ to ward off evil spirits bangs on a bit.


Tuesdays, press days, are always something of a marathon, and today is no exception.

Still, I always enjoy the buzz of a busy news room and the day goes relatively smoothly, with the news team assembling a strong front page. It disappears off to the printers at around 7.30pm.

Tomorrow I must get up at the crack of dawn to attend a round table we are organising on the ongoing controversy surrounding the conflict of interest rules.

The issue hit the national press earlier this year when the blue chip M&A firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was barred by the courts from acting for Philip Green on his putative hostile bid for M&S, because of a conflict.

It should be an interesting session, as an array of senior in-house lawyers, whose job it is to instruct the top firms, will be in attendance. Still, that is tomorrow.

For now I am off home, leaving behind a satisfyingly untidy desk.

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