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Blog Name: Matthew @ RoF's blog

Where to eat in Venice
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1
05 April 2017
I’ve just returned from a few days in Venice. Lucky old me. The sun shone, La Serenissima was as much of a film set as ever, every church contained a Titian.

A
rchitecture aside I remember Venice as being a galactic rip off. A grotty airport from which you take a hideously overpriced water taxi to your hotel, fleets of gondoliers singing badly to Japanese tourists, greasy bowls of linguine a la vongole which would shame Carluccios. But all of this has changed. Most notably, it is now possible to eat quite spectacularly well.

You can’t throw a rock in Venice without hitting a City lawyer. All of them have their go-to favourite churches or palazzi for Tintoretto, I’m not going to jump in on that. But I was lucky enough to be given some tips by a number of people with close links to the island and I share some of the better ones here.

Getting there

Marco Polo airport has been refurbished and is now very smart. Once you get your bags you can buy a ticket for a water taxi from a clearly signed kiosk. This costs €110, which is appreciably less pricey than the rates quoted on most hotels’ websites, and gets you a private launch for around half an hour. If you book your return taxi at the same time you get a 10% discount.

Where to stay

The Gritti. It is expensive because it is amazing, and even the most basic rooms are exquisite. Your water taxi deposits you at its own landing stage where you are whisked into what is, entirely literally, a palace:

     

The whole place is marble and Murano glass. This is the mirror in the loos:

     

This was the view from the roof terrace. It can hold about 80 people, has its own pool and must surely the best party venue in Venice. Robbie Williams had his after party there:

     

The staff make you feel as if you’re the only person there. I would like to think that I was somehow singled out for special treatment by the General Manager, Paulo Lorenzoni, but I imagine that he treats every guest like this.

If you can’t spring for a room, at least go for a drink. The barman makes fantastic (and lethally large) gibsons which you can enjoy on the terrace:

     


You will be surrounded by Italian aristocrats with fawn socks and toy dogs, which is delightful, and loud Americans in terrible leisure wear, which is rather less so.

How to get around

Walk. And avoid the crowded bridges by crossing via a traghetto – a two-man gondola that ferries passengers across the grand canal for the princely sum of €2:

     

Locals stand, tourists sit. I, of course, tried to stand and nearly ended up in the drink.

Where to eat

Local

Unpromising name, outstanding restaurant. Book in advance and ask your concierge to request a table by the window. New wave, modern Venetian food that contains ingredients which won’t appeal to all (fish guts, brains), but some beautiful, delicious plates. This is “cuttlefish during spring”:

     

I had a pudding that was almost entirely composed of candied celery. Much better than it sounds.


The wine list is a bible, with most (if not all) biodynamic and organic. I did a valiant job of drinking my way through much of it.

Al Covo

Older style, more traditional, with a few tables outside in the small square:

     

Again, part of the slow food movement with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Soft shell crabs from the lagoon were on offer for four weeks only. It was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The waiter pointed out that they are generally frozen, whereas these had been alive and running around the kitchen just ten minutes earlier.


Estro

Essentially a wine shop with food, rammed to the rafters and a great buzz. Call the restaurant and ask for directions. You will get lost. The concierge didn’t know where it was, the address given had nothing more than a nodding acquaintanceship with its physical location, and it is impossible to find on a mobile phone. After half an hour of walking in small circles around the Frari a kindly waiter was sent out to find us. “Ah, we’re not on Google yet, sorry”.

Da Raffaele

We fell into this one round the corner from the hotel. No slow food here, basic tourist grub, but perfectly serviceable pasta, tables outside by a pretty canal and very gently marked up Tignanello.

Alle Testiere

You’ll need to book this a couple of weeks ahead as it’s tiny:

     


It operates two sittings in the evening, at 7:30 and at 9:30, and had just a handful of tables and the most delicious shellfish imaginable. Another restaurant with biodynamic wines and seasonal ingredients. Spiny lobster with bitter chicory, artisanal pasta with exquisite little clams, cuttlefish in its own ink. Happy days.

Buon appetito. And thank you to everyone for their recommendations, with a special mention to Anne Groves, Peter and Justine Morris and Guy Beringer.

 

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Herbert Smith Freehills in outstanding mental health initiative
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12
08 March 2017
Over the years the big law firms have come up with countless attempts to address the same problems – promoting wider diversity in or greater access to the profession; addressing the insufficient representation of women, or those from ethnic minorities, or those who are LGBT; tackling stress and ill health.  All of these projects are, doubtless, launched with the most laudable of intentions. Many of them end up as largely ineffective and, at worst, little more than window dressing. So I tip my hat to Herbies for coming up with something that is genuinely effective.


I recently had lunch with Ian Cox, the firm’s London Managing Partner, and he discussed his firm’s mental health programme with the zeal of a convert. I went in to talk to the firm about it in greater detail and it is a model which should be adopted across the profession.

HSF launched the programme about two years ago, encouraging staff to become mental health mentors. 76 of them from across the firm – partners, those in business services, associates – have signed up and been trained. Their status is advertised internally, and anyone with mental health issues can approach any mentor entirely confidentially. Sometimes it’s just a question of a chat and a sympathetic ear. Sometimes the situation is more serious and may lead to a referral. The chief aims are to destigmatise mental health issues and proactively to spot individuals who are in distress and need help before their situation worsens.

It has been supported by a number of events. Ruby Wax launched the programme and recent speakers have included:

  • Alastair Campbell, who spoke about how he functioned in a highly stressful environment with a mental illness, his trigger points and how he avoided them;
  • Clarke Carlisle, who focussed on the difficulties in encouraging men to accept that they had mental health issues; and
  • Jonny Benjamin, who stood on Waterloo Bridge at rush hour with the intention of jumping off it, and Neil Laybourn, the stranger who was walking past and stopped to talk him out of it.

The firm’s senior management is foursquare behind the programme. Two partners, Chris Parsons and Samantha Brown, have spoken at length both internally and externally about their personal battles with mental illness. Brown (below) was interviewed about her experiences on the BBC earlier this week.

     

HSF does lots of things that other firms do - it actively participates in the City-wide “This Is Me” campaign to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace. And lots of things that other firms don’t – it recently changed its healthcare provider specifically to offer its staff a better mental health offering.

The programme has so far been run in London and Belfast and there has been interest in expanding it across the firm’s global network. I hope that interest turns into action. I also hope that other firms are encouraged by the success of this programme and adopt something similar. David Shields, HSF’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, told me that Brown and Parsons would be happy to address other partnerships on this issue. Please contact him on david.shields@hsf.com.

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Exclusive: William Boss in conspicuous mea culpa
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-3
03 March 2017
William Boss, the former European Managing Partner of KWM, is clearly trying to atone for his role in the collapse of the firm.

During Boss's tenure the London office pretty much disintegrated. On realising this he decided to do the decent thing, stay in the role and try and shore up the ship. Nah, not really. He resigned after only 10 months, handing over one of the biggest hospital passes in the history of the profession. He still remained in the partnership (a chap's got to eat, after all), until the firm's demise became inevitable and he jumped ship to Addleshaws.

    Boss. How he might have looked.

He is now safely ensconced there on lots of dollar, although presumably rather sweatily waiting to see if the SRA will get off its arse and have a pop at him and his ilk. And in the manner of a mediaeval monarch publicly making the pilgrimage to Santiago on his knees is showing his contrition and purity of soul. An insider says that he "has very recently (and conspicuously) signed himself up to a pro-bono legal advice centre initiative at Addleshaw Goddard  - their "Springfield Advice Centre" run from Springfield Methodist Church in Stockwell on Tuesdays. Presumably ex-KWM lawyers and support staff will be keen to know that they can drop in for some free legal advice on their mortgage arrears from one of the sods who caused their woes in the first place."

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Exclusive: "Linklaters lawyer" in air-rage rant
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2
10 February 2017
A passenger who was splashed all over the Daily Mail after fighting over an arm rest on a flight has claimed to be a lawyer at Linklaters.

Another passenger on the Monarch Airlines flight from Gatwick to Malaga filmed the fracas, in which a man and a woman verbally knock seven bells out of each other whilst crew members try to calm them down. The man refuses to move, saying that "the woman is obnoxious and rude, I'm not going anywhere". The woman retorts that "he just punched me with his elbow" and "I am a lawyer at Linklaters and I will sue you guys".

It seems unlikely that someone woud make this up. Although maybe Linklaters' branding is such that it is the go-to fictional employer of any passing nut job who wants to impress.

Linklaters was unaware of the incident and is looking into it. If this lady really is at the firm she should be feeling pretty nervous.

     

This follows hot on the heels of a Linklaters' associate helping British Transport Police with their enquiries after being filmed in an altercation with a passenger on a train. Is the firm doping its water coolers with steroids?


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Brexit - The Lord Chancellor starts growing a spine
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3
24 January 2017
The Supreme Court held this morning that Parliament will have to be granted a vote before Article 50 is invoked. Here's a handy cut-out-and-keep crib sheet from Will Richmond-Coggan of Pitmans on the impact of the ruling.

The Daily Mail went absolutely mental when the judgment in the lower court was handed down, branding the judges "enemies of the people" and banging on about them having gone to Oxbridge, or living in nice houses, or being gay. Liz Truss, the Lord Chancellor, shamefully failed to provide a meaningful response and stand up for the judiciary.

This morning there were signs that she was finally taking her job more seriously. Her office issued the following statement:

"Our independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law and is vital to our constitution and our freedoms. The reputation of our judiciary is unrivalled the world over, and our Supreme Court justices are people of integrity and impartiality.

While we may not always agree with judgments, it is a fundamental part of any thriving democracy that legal process is followed. The government has been clear that it will respect the decision of the court."

The Daily Mail obviously doesn't agree. This is its spittle flecked copy straight after the judgment:

     

The dire consequences of the highest court in the land doing its job and ruling on a point of constitutional law were made clear in the comments under the article:

     

And apparently the entire rule of law has collapsed:

     

There will be no prizes for guessing the headline in Der Sturmer The Mail tomorrow. But it will be very interesting to see if The Lord Chancellor decides to take the paper to task over it. Watch this space.


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EXCLUSIVE: Pay rises and extra holiday at Slaughter and May
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4
14 December 2016
Associates at Slaughter and May will get pay rises and extra holidays following a lengthy consultation process at the firm.

RollOnFriday doesn't have all the details yet - they'll be formally announced later today. But an insider said that the key points are:
 
•    No billable hours targets;
•    Increases to associate salary scales from 1 January 2017
•    A bonus paid on 31 December 2016
•    The opportunity for all associates to apply to work one day a week from home
•    A total of 30 days of annual paid holiday from 1 January 2017 (pro-rated for part-time employees)
•    Out of those 30 days, 4 days can be taken as half-days (i.e. 8 half-days)
•    A four-week paid sabbatical for associates when they reach 3 YPQE (to be introduced during 2017)
•    An onsite doctor to be introduced during 2017

Merry Christmas!

Read all about it on Friday.
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Trolleyed at Travers Smith
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-22
13 December 2016
The RoF team was invited to lunch at Travers Smith yesterday. It was great fun. Particularly the pre-lunch martinis:

     

And they'd clearly gone to the trouble of using their very best stemware:


   

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Give a KWM staffer a job, please
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0
30 November 2016
KWM's European partners voted overwhelmingly last week not to put their hands in their pockets and save the former SJ Berwin. Most of them will now be sorting out their parachutes and negotiating terms at rival law firms.

This is of course not such an easy option for the employees of the firm, who will most likely find themselves looking at new year on the dole through absolutely no fault of their own.

Last Friday we suggested that the many firms which have taken on partners from KWM over the past year might like to help out. So far only Keystone Law has put its hand up. So we're widening the appeal to all employers out there. If you have a vacancy in your post room, if you can use another secretary or a trainee, if you can keep another litigation associate busy - please click here or send an email to helpkwm@rollonfriday.com to let us know, we'll post your details and staff can apply directly.


  This could be you

Come on, it's nearly Christmas, please do your bit.

UPDATE:

From Fox Williams:

"If any of the KWM associates c.3years PQE would like to join one of the UK’s pre-eminent corporate teams advising financial services firms and professional practices, please call Liz on 020 7614 2511. We have a number of roles in our thriving department and we are looking in particular for great candidates who have a good understanding of partnership, LLP as well as corporate law. Experience in one or more of these areas would be advantageous. We have real opportunities for committed, ambitious lawyers with good people skills. Excellent prospects in a friendly team."


And from GQ Employment Law:

"GQ Employment Law is interested in hiring a junior level Associate (NQ-3 years’ PQE).

 
GQ is a specialist employment law firm focused on advising employers on high value, complex employment law issues:

-We have a team of 15 fee-earners, all of whom have joined from leading City firms.

-We work with employers in a variety of sectors from financial services to technology, professional services and luxury goods. We also work with a select number of senior executives on high-value individual employment and partnership/LLP issues.

-We advise on the full range of employment law issues, including day-to-day issues, workplace restructuring, High Court and Employment Tribunal litigation, transaction support, international projects. We also advise on partnership/LLP issues.

Any interested Associates can contact Jon Gilligan (jon.gilligan@gqemploymentlaw.com), Paul Quain (paul.quain@gqemploymentlaw.com) or Sophie Vanhegan (sophie.vanhegan@gqemploymentlaw.com)."  


Keep 'em coming.




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The Lord Chancellor is a coward. And I claim my five pounds.
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-9
08 November 2016
Unless you have been living in a cave for the past week, you will know that three top judges held that Parliament would need to vote in order to activate Brexit. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Etherton MR and Lord Justice Sales stressed in their judgment that they made no comment on the merits or otherwise of Brexit itself. This was simply a constitutional point.

The Government, which is appealing, was clearly irritated. But the fury of the Daily Mail was unimaginable. It surpassed itself with the following headline:

     

Yup. Three senior judges who did exactly what they were paid to do are "enemies of the people". How dare they prevent the government for doing whatever it wants without consulting Parliament? And in case the collective spleen of Middle England wasn't sufficiently inflamed by this audacity, some handy biographies were given of the judges.

Lord Thomas is a "committed Europhile" who "banked £1m" when he downsized his family home. And he went to Cambridge. Sales LJ  "charged taxpayers £3.3m in six years" as the Government's First Treasury Counsel. He came from the same set as Tony Blair, and we all know he's a wrong 'un. And he went to Cambridge AND Oxford. And Etherton MR qualified for the 1980 Olympics as part of the British Fencing Team. A few weeks ago it was all about our Olympic Heroes. But if you're the Master of the Rolls then it just smacks of elitism, eh? And fencing, that sounds a bit iffy, doesn't it? Sure enough we're told for no reason whatsoever that Etherton is "openly gay". And he might be a bit Jewish, too. "In 2014, he and his partner, solicitor Andrew Stone, took part in the first Jewish ceremonies at a UK synagogue to convert a civil partnership into marriage".

This sort of inflammatory bilge from the Daily Mail is hardly new. Here's a headline from back in the day:

   

And if the Supreme Court finds against the government, presumably we'll have this to look forward to:

     

The vaguely sentient haemorrhoids who write from the Mail are paid to come up with this rabble-rousing nonsense. But you might expect the Lord Chancellor, on behalf of the judiciary, to take issue with it. And you would be wrong.

Nothing was heard from Liz Truss for days. When she finally put out a statement it was a sanitised, cowardly effort designed to appease her political masters. It grudgingly acknowledged that the judiciary should be independent, but it absolutely failed to make any criticism of the Mail.

Truss's appointment as Lord Chancellor back in July was widely ridiculed. Her allies said that much of this was down to misogyny, which might well have been the case - David Mellor this week described her as a "delightful girl". She isn't a lawyer. Neither were her two predecessors, Gove and Grayling, said her camp. True. But Gove was completely useless and Grayling was verging on insane. And her record prior to the job was notable largely for her excruciating speeches.  “We import two-thirds of our cheese. That. Is. A. Disgrace." Hmmm.

Nonetheless she was sworn in with an oath to champion the judiciary. And within a few weeks she has broken it and lost the confidence of pretty much the entire profession. She could, and should, have waded in and destroyed the Mail's points one by one. Dominic Grieve (I declare an interest, a friend), whom absolutely everyone expected to get Truss's job, was immediately on Newsnight telling anyone who'd listen that the Mail and Telegraph were an absolute disgrace and that this sort of coverage "started to make one think that one was living in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe … I think there’s a danger of a sort of mob psyche developing".

Tory Justice Minister Lord Faulks resigned when Truss was appointed. He said "I have nothing against Ms Truss personally. But is she going to have the clout to be able to stand up to the prime minister when necessary on behalf of the judges?" At the time he was criticised for failing even to give her a chance. But he's been shown to be completely right, surely?

Truss's cravenly supine position can only encourage this mob mentality and assist the far right. Nigel Farage has announced that he's going to get 100,000 of his swivel-eyed disciples to march on the Supreme Court, just to press home to the judiciary what will happen to them if they fail to bow to the will of the people. Again, no word from Truss. It's scandalous.

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World Exclusive: KWM top brass in China to hammer out deal
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-2
04 November 2016
Michael Cziesla and Tim Bednall, European Senior and Managing Partners of KWM, are currently in China trying to hammer out a deal to shore up the London office.

They have been meeting with the firm's top brass after London partners were told of the levels of debt and partner departures at the firm last week, as broken by RoF.

     

Cziesla and Bednall are due to return next week to present a deal to the London office. Expect an announcement then. Fingers crossed they've managed to find a way forwards.

A spokeswoman for the firm declined to comment.

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