Welcome to Full Disclosure, a round-up of the can't-miss stories that lawyers were reading this week.
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Full Disclosure: What the legal world is reading this week

Madison Darbyshire - July 18 2019

Once upon a time, about five to 10 years ago, when you left the legal profession, you left.

“You were wiped from the memory of the business,” said Christina Blacklaws, former president of the Law Society of England.

Lawyers who took time off from City law firms to raise families or *gasp* explore other careers saw little hope of re-entering, a consequence of the escalator model of “up-or-out”.

Today, not much has changed. Experienced lawyers attempting to re-enter the profession struggle to get interviews in the firms that competed for them as new graduates.

“Recruiters were not willing to put me forward as an option to private practice,” says Mehrnaz Afshar, a lawyer with Reed Smith, who took time off from her Magic Circle firm to set up a small business.

Others felt isolated or disempowered, because they didn’t know the latest developments in the law, and they felt catching up was impossible.

Enter “returnships”, the buzzy word for the growing programmes designed to get people, many of them women, back into work at law firms after significant time away. The Law Society has sponsored a returners programme for the past decade that was “always oversubscribed”. Recently, the Reignite Academy has come to the fore as a leader in City law firm returnships in the UK.

“With Reignite I didn’t have to kick any doors down,” says Kristin Shelley, a tax lawyer at CMS, who took time off when her first child was born and later moved with her former husband to China, where she could not practice. After her divorce when she began to look for work, she was discouraged and considered support roles in a firm as well as giving up the law entirely. She struggled getting past recruiters, until she was connected with the returnship programme.

“Firms were ready to interview me,” she says. “I’m clever and have great experience, I just needed to get in the door.”

Returnships are increasingly vital to lawyers as many top firms still fail to resource programmes to re-employ trained lawyers, essential for increasing diversity at the top. “Many law firms or legal business are not living it, even if they espouse those values,” says Ms Blacklaws.

Once a returner is connected with a law firm in Reignite’s network, they receive a six-month contract as well as additional training and support, and operate, in effect, as trainees. At the end, a firm can decide if they want to keep the returner full time. Reignite has found the model to be very successful leading to full-time roles.

Returners say one challenge has been communicating with the rest of the firm who they are and what can be expected of them, since it can be difficult to tell with a glance what their qualification level or rank should be.

Working with and supporting returners is good business for firms. “It’s expensive to train and recruit tax lawyers,” said Ms Shelley.

Plus, returners are hungry. “I have 10 times more energy coming in that I had when I left,” she said.

She added: “And after 12 years out with three children, boy was I ready to come back.”

Tell us your story of returning to a City firm, or what you’d like us to talk about in our next Full Disclosure: madison.darbyshire@ft.com

Further reading: Can you be a mother and a senior law firm partner?


  • Herbert Smith Freehills has hired Joseph Longo to its financial services regulatory practice in Australia. Longo joins after 17 years at Deutsche Bank, where he was General Counsel for UK and EMEA
  • Allen & Overy has hired Jin Hee Kim as a partner in its leveraged finance department in New York. Kim joins from Cahill Gordon & Reindel where she was a counsel in the firm’s corporate practice.
  • Morrison & Foerster has hired two new partners, Jessica Isokawa and Bradley Kondracki, in San Francisco. Isokawa was previously a corporate partner at Kirkland & Ellis, and Kondracki was an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.
  • Paul Weiss has hired Jean McLoughlin as a partner in the law firm’s executive compensation and employee benefits practice in New York. McLoughlin was a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell.
  • Sarbajeet Nag has joined Milbank as a partner in the law firm’s European leveraged finance and capital markets group in London. Nag joins the firm from Allen & Overy.

The trillion-dollar taboo: why it’s time to stop ignoring mental health at work

The trillion-dollar taboo: why it’s time to stop ignoring mental health at work

Gabe MacConaill, a 42-year-old junior partner at global law firm Sidley Austin, was working on a life-defining case when he died by suicide in the parking lot of his law firm. His wife, Joanna Litt, published a letter in American Lawyer magazine called “Big Law Killed My Husband”. Almost every industry is guilty of it, but mental health problems are particularly endemic in large law firms where long hours, big deadlines and career making or breaking cases are considered normal. What are companies doing about it?

“There is a deeply entrenched cultural idea that workplaces are fine; it’s the employees who are the problem. But employers have a social responsibility to not be harming the people who are working within their walls.”

Demand grows for lawyers in the secretive world of Cfius

Demand grows for lawyers in the secretive world of Cfius

Leading global law firms are engaged in a bidding war for attorneys versed in the ways of US foreign investment reviews as Washington steps up scrutiny of deals on national security grounds. Last week, lawyers from Skadden Arps and Covington & Burling — America’s two pre-eminent law firms that advise on national security reviews of dealmaking — were poached by other firms. Mark Plotkin, a partner at Covington & Burling said:

“With Cfius it is not like you can pick up the book and know what you are doing. The law is not that complicated and it is reasonably straightforward, but there’s no body of cases.”

What to expect from President von der Leyen

Christine Lagarde shows how to deal with imposter syndrome

Ursula von der Leyen will be the first female European Commission president, the first German in half a century, and the first to be confirmed by a majority so small it can be counted on two hands. Her wafer-thin nine-vote margin highlights the political trouble that lies ahead for the von der Leyen administration.

“The bigger long term concern for Ms von der Leyen may be the arithmetic of power. The European Parliament is more fragmented than at any time since direct elections began in 1979 and there is scant sign of a stable coalition emerging between the three or four pro-EU groups needed for a majority.”

Bobi Wine: ‘I will walk you round my ghetto’

Bobi Wine: ‘I will walk you round my ghetto’

In this smash-hit Lunch with the FT, Africa editor David Pilling interviews the rapper-turned-MP about the Ugandan political establishment

“Christened Robert Kyagulanyi, he soon adopted Bobi (pronounced “Bobby”) — “because it’s cooler” — and later Wine since, he says, wine improves with age. Wine’s elevation to a symbol of Africa’s rising generation is no small responsibility in a continent where the median age is 19, and where urban youth engender both a sense of optimism for an Africa on the move and impending catastrophe as they seek jobs and political agency in a region dominated by out-of-touch autocrats.”

Martin Wolf on Bretton Woods at 75: global co-operation under threat

Martin Wolf on Bretton Woods at 75: global co-operation under threat

The conference at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire that underpinned much of today’s global economic order took place three-quarters of a century ago. The second world war was not yet won. Yet already the western powers — the US, above all — were thinking about how to organise things differently for the better world. So, what happened next? A vital and prescient history lesson from Mr Wolf.

“How do we create enough order and co-operation to sustain our complex, interdependent and environmentally stressed world, without a hegemon most countries want to follow?”

Brexit brief:


Management consulting sector boosted by Brexit planning


What the UK’s ‘left-behind’ areas want after Brexit


Theresa May’s Brexit legacy is a bitterly divided UK

Closing argument

Much can be learnt about an organisation from its restrooms

Much can be learnt about an organisation from its restrooms

What’s in a loo? Would a loo by any other design still smell as sweet? Pilita Clark asks the tough questions in her (rib-achingly funny) analysis of what we can learn about a corporate culture by looking at its most private faculties. Also, as an insider on this particular company, the FT’s new heated toilet seats take some getting used to.

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