Don’t do it (part 2)

A blistering piece in the FT this morning by Cat Rutter Pooley (paywalled) – City lawyers cannot hide behind the law over Russian clients – on the dilemma for law firms.

And a very clear message that this should not be a dilemma,

But mealy-mouthed statements should not be allowed to provide cover for a lack of real action. Firms do not need to shout about dropping Russian clients. It nonetheless needs to be clear that they will not carry on as they were before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Lawyers always profit in bad times. You’d be naive to think otherwise.

Nonetheless, how they do it is what really matters. And how we will judge them.

The really difficult bit – don’t do it. Stop acting. Walk away.

I was very struck by a comment, reported in today’s FT (paywalled), by Vladimir Ashurkov, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, set up by Alexei Navalny,

[M]y experience in international finance has taught me not to expect moral-based decisions by professional services firms.

What are the City professional services firms with links to Russia going to do? What are their internal ethics advisers telling their management boards? What are the pressures they will feel from clients, their staff, their alumni, if they aren’t already? Are they ready to walk away? Are they already looking for the right weasel words?

Who knows? I don’t – but do they?

20 years ago Bill Knight, who had just stepped down as Senior Partner at Simmons & Simmons, wrote an article for PLC titled Practical morality for lawyers. It is still available if you have a subscription. He referenced the then recent financial scandals – Enron, Anderson, Tyco, Worldcom etc. Remember them?

It’s a short article. It is also as applicable today as it was then, possibly more so. It ends with a clear and simple message,

Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not the guardian of morality. We all are. If not, who? Politicians? Now I really feel safe.

If it were only this simple

In the FT this morning I came across this

While declining to discuss specific cases, Leppard, who was commissioner of the City of London Police until 2015 and was awarded a CBE for services to policing, defended the use of deception and undercover surveillance as necessary tactics. “It’s quite lawful to deceive people if you’re doing it for the greater good,” he said . . .

The problem, of which Leppard seems wholly unaware, is who gets to decide how you define ‘greater good’ – and whose.

But then he was once a policeman . . .


The experience of lockdown is different for everyone. I feel hugely lucky to be here (Devon), untroubled by concerns over ‘staying local’ for exercise. The side door leads through the churchyard into open country.

And working from home is something I have been doing for almost a decade – but before the pandemic this was something I chose to do. It is not quite the same when there is no alternative. Above all, I miss London and I miss friends.

In the Weekend FT Rebecca Watson’s closing paragraph in her piece Alone together: friendship in a pandemic (behind the FT paywall) resonated very strongly,

The world will not return to normal, instead the pandemic will yield. There is a difference. Friendships will not simply revert to what rather once they were: but that need not be a bad thing. I find it easy to live to a schedule: what I am doing and who I am seeing next rising to meet me before the previous event is over. When it safe and possible, I will want to see my friends. But when I do, I will try to appreciate the moments as they happen, fortified by the memory that for a time they couldn’t.

When it is safe and possible, likewise.