International Changes in the Legal Arena

Government Shutdown

In the United States, the longest government shutdown in US history continues, and experts say that there may be some unintended consequences. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is experiencing delays in the reviews currently filed and can expect a severe backlog of reviews when the Government shutdown ends, especially as their scope has recently increased under legislation. Some of the deals that the CFIUS is supposed to review may not go forward if the government shutdown continues, which will have a serious effect on already low foreign direct investment in the US. [McQueen, Government Shutdown Holds Up CFIUS)

Brexit

In the U.K., law firms are preparing for the country’s departure from the European Union by admitting many solicitors to the Irish roll and ensuring their lawyers are dual qualified, as lawyers will no longer be able to practice English law in continuing European Union countries. [Bennett, What Top Law Firms in the UK Are Doing]

The Big Four Push

The Big Four Accounting Firms are expanding and strengthening their presence in Asian legal markets, as the global growth of legal services lawyer head count in the Asia-Pacific region is 30%. Most recently, KPMG has launched a law firm in Hong Kong called SF Lawyers with nine highly-qualified lawyers and aims to expand to twenty lawyers by the end of the year. [Kang, Big Four’s KPMG Opens Hong Kong Law Firm] The KPMG launch in Hong Kong is a part of the company’s aim to double the size of their legal services arm. The push into legal services by the Big Four Accounting Firms has been a concerning move for many law firms, despite the claim by KPMG that they are, “not trying to build a law firm within an accounting firm.” [Nick Roome, KPMG U.K. Legal Services Head] The legal services offered by the Big Four Accounting Firms include services in business structures transactions; tax disputes and investigations; employment and immigration; and “new law” and global, which handles filing and regulatory process work for clients. [Nair, KPMG Aims to Double Size of Its Legal Services Arm] This development in the legal arena offers a unique opportunity for international business lawyers.

Challenges & Opportunities

Around the world, the legal climate is changing. In the United States and the U.K., politics are forcing law firms and individual lawyers to prepare and adapt to change. The Big Four Accounting Firms are causing changes around the world as they are strengthening their legal services arm. While these changes in the legal climate create many challenges for law firms and individual lawyers, they also present unique opportunities.

Opportunity for a Bright Future

As I have discussed in past trade press releases, many of the challenges that law firms are facing are due to new technology and alternative legal service providers. Deborah Farone, writer for the American Lawyer, describes these challenges as “disconnects” that exist within modern-day law firms that can be seen as either impediments or opportunities. Farone emphasizes that law firms need to focus on using the resources that are available effectively. The expertise offered by firms in specific niches, including the Big 4 accounting firms, should be taken advantage of by creating strategic relationships and partnerships. Technology should be studied and analyzed in order to be implemented in the most effective ways possible rather than avoided or used “just for technology’s sake.”

Financials of 2018 show a rise in profits for law firms across the board. Top firms have reached new heights in profits, but growth this year has been more evenly distributed among all sizes of law firms. The firms that continue to struggle are those that are smaller and less profitable than the competition; therefore, have difficulty keeping top talent. The rising competition and performance of these top firms reflects well on the industry.  

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2019 Corporate Equality Index has found that big law firms in America have once again outperformed the rest of corporate America in their acceptance and support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees. Despite the issues of equality and representation that I have discussed in past trade press releases, this is evidence that change is possible and happening.

The emergence of new talent and technology has created a very competitive market for legal service providers. While it may be harder for firms to keep top clients and talents, these developments within the legal field reflect well on the industry overall. The acceptance of the LGBTQ community among top firms also proves that change can be made and equality can be reached. Despite the challenges faced by my generation as we enter the legal field, there are also endless opportunities to build upon this promising industry.

The Hidden Gem of Libraries

To all students who love fiction or once did, the hidden gem in Gainesville that you need to know about is the Alachua County Library.

While all of the libraries on campus will supposedly order any book from any library in the state, this has never worked for me in practice. The only books that I have found in UF libraries are educational and nonfiction – but who wants to read more heavy literature in college than required? Throughout my freshman year, I struggled to find fiction, leisure books in the libraries on campus and buying more books than necessary is not an appealing option.

Two months ago, I became a member of the Alachua County Library. The Alachua County Library has almost all of the must-read titles that I have been collecting over the past year. I also submitted a purchase recommendation for a novel that I couldn’t find and received an email from the library a week later saying that the novel had been purchased and put on hold for me to pick up at the Headquarters in downtown Gainesville.

WHY?

  1. It’s free. As long as you are a resident of Florida, which qualifies all students at the University of Florida, it is completely free to get a library card at the Alachua County Library.
  2. More than just books. In addition to novels, members of the Alachua County Library can also rent DVDs, reserve a computer, use the eSources, and download eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and music. The library also hosts events including Author Series that brings nationally renowned authors to Gainesville. For students, the Alachua County Library offers unique programs including Girls Who Code tutoring sessions and Tax Assistance. Students can choose to participate or volunteer in these programs.
  3. Giving back to Gainesville. The Alachua County Library is the only public library in Alachua County, which has a population of around 250,000 people. Funded by tax-payer dollars, the Alachua County Library has 12 branch locations, two bookmobiles, and multiple deposit collections. As listed by the American Library Association, some of the economic and social benefits of public libraries are: collection of materials for public use; support of educational programs; educational benefits of the library’s mission including literacy of the citizenry; technology for use in the library; employment of the expertise of the library staff; library facility as a community gathering place; “halo” spending by library users at establishments close to the library; value of a library’s enhancement to neighborhood real estate and community partnerships. In addition to the service opportunities offered, simply supporting the library is a small way that you can give back and connect with the Gainesville community.

WHERE, WHEN & HOW?

To register as a member of the library, bring any current photo ID with Florida address or any other verification of residency (UF students from out-of-state qualify.) The Headquarters Location is conveniently located in downtown Gainesville and is open from 9:30AM-9 PM Monday-Thursday, 9:30AM-6PM on Friday, 9:30AM-5PM on Saturday and 1PM-5 PM on Sunday.

Being able to read more as a member of the Alachua County Library has reminded me of my love for fiction and helped me escape the stresses of college. As a member of the Alachua County Library, I also feel more connected to the community, and Gainesville feels more like home than ever.

Economic, Racial & Gender Inequality

How to Get in to College: Rich People Edition

Photo: Gordon Caplan leaves Federal Court in Manhattan. NY Daily News.

Co-chairman of AM Law 50 law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Gordon Caplan, was just released on a $500,000 bond. Along with approximately 50 defendants, Caplan was arrested for participating in a conspiracy that allowed cheating on college entrance exams. The conspiracy was led by William Singer, who founded a college preparatory business called the Edge College & Career Network. Recorded during a wiretap, Singer explained to Caplan that his business helps the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school by having the proctor of the standardized test answer the questions for the students. Cornell alum, Gordon Caplan wired $75,000 in two separate amounts to Key Worldwide. The elaborate FBI sting recorded detailed conversations during wiretaps describing the scheme run by Singer involving Caplan, other executives and businessmen, actresses and sports coaches. 

Picture-Perfect Diversity

Despite small increases in the past three years, representation of black associates is just below pre-recession level at 4.66%, the number of black partners has barely increased since the recession at 1.83% and minority women remain the most dramatically underrepresented group at partnership level. These figures were found by The National Association for Law Placement and published in their 2018 report on diversity. In many cases, firms are recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups to appear on firm brochures in order to create an illusion of diversity instead of creating an environment that supports and encourages equal treatment and opportunity.

Letting Sexual Harassment Slide

Photo: Shutterstock.

In addition to lack of representation, female lawyers are also facing sexual harassment from clients. In 2018, the International Bar Association found that nearly one in five instances of sexual harassment were committed by clients, and hardly any firms have policies in place to address this issue. With the automation of some legal work and an increase in alternative legal service providers, the competition for clients is higher than ever. Firms are, therefore, reluctant to put policies in place that may scare clients away. In addition, many female lawyers do not report clients for sexual harassment due to fear of being forced off cases and losing career-advancing opportunities.

Takeaways

Within the legal community, economic, racial and gender inequality remains a prevalent issue. In order to work toward change, there must be an open conversation about the issues currently faced and an effort toward finding solutions that works. In the case of corrupt, wealthy executives and clients who have been reported for sexual harassment, blame must be placed and justice must be found in appropriate punishment. In the case of racial inequality in the workplace, rather than placing blame on law schools for not accepting many black students, firms need to increase the demand for black lawyers.

“Change does not come easy. The struggle toward achieving the goal of diversity and inclusion in the legal community is a process, but one that we all must be invested in.”

–Henry E. Ibe, “Is Being Black a Problem at Law Firms?”

Generation Z: Glued to Our Computers & Depressed

Technology in the Workplace

Our generation – ‘Generation Z’ – is the first generation truly raised on technology. As Generation Z is graduating and entering the workforce, the challenges of integrating technology into work are expected to rise. This week, American Lawyer journalist Victoria Hudgins reported that more tech may mean more problems, especially for young lawyers. The ability to work remotely has been adopted by many Millennial lawyers already and the implication is not more free time expected to come with being away from the office. Instead, Millennial lawyers face the issue of the ability and pressure to always be connected. This is presumed to be the cause of increased anxiety and depression in young lawyers.

Goodbye Law Firms?

Another shift in the legal services arena due to technology is a rising number of alternative legal services providers. Just this week, Axiom submitted a draft registration statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Axiom specializes in offering technology-enabled legal services and currently employs over 2000 people around the world and had reported revenue of $300 million in 2017. The effect that this shift will have on employment for lawyers is unclear. [Roberts, “Alternative Legal Services Provider Axiom to Go Public”]

Social Media Fraud

Some aspects of technology, however, have provided more cases for lawyers. For example, New York State Attorney General Letitia James recently announced a settlement with Devumi LLC and related companies owned by German Calas Jr. for social media fraud. Social media fraud was defined by the AG’s office as attempting to deceive and affect the decision-making of social media audiences. An example of social media fraud is selling “endorsements from social media influencers without disclosing that the influencers had been paid for their recommendations.” [Lewis, “How New York Authorities are Regulating the Internet”]

The Future of Generation Z

As it always has, technology is developing faster than we can keep up. In today’s world, we are struggling to deal with the issues that technology has created in relation to the work, the environment, privacy, etc. As our generation enters the workforce, we face a great deal of challenges as well as potential.  

We have the responsibility of paving the way for future generations on how to integrate technology into our personal and professional lives.

How To: Spring Break

Hello friends! Spring Break is approaching and I am going to tell you everything you need to have the best, stress-free break! As work, projects and exams have been piling on, I have been dreaming of books and cool drinks by the water. I came up with the trifecta of vacation novel suggestions (if I do say so myself) that will make you completely forget about school and work.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

This is the first Struab novel that I have read and definitely not the last. The Vacationers is a filled with all the family drama that vacations bring (we can all relate on some level) and Straub tells the story beautifully and humorsly. I laughed, I cried.

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

I have never read anything quite like Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime. Salter tells a thrilling and intense story of a love affair between a Yale drop out and a young French girl. The novel is beautiful and brutal, and sets the standard for erotic fiction. Is it hot in here?

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This novel is the longest of the three, but guaranteed to be the fastest read. Wolitzer tells the story of the friendship of six creative fifteen year olds and how different their lives become as they get older. Wolitzer created perfect characters that you are going to love.

Another absolute must buy for this break (really for all readers, all the time) is the Amazon Kindle. I read my last hardcover book last week when I spent $15 on a book and then accidentally spilled my entire coffee on it. After this tragedy, I treated myself to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (it’s waterproof!!) and I then saw that the Kindle version of the same book is only two dollars. What have I been doing all my life? The Kindle Paperwhite is perfect for reading by the pool and in bed – the only two places I will be this break – because it has a built in adjustable light that lets you read indoors and outdoors. The Kindle also has built in Wifi, so in case you get through my trifecta of recommendations, you can download a new book without moving from your lawn chair. I know, I am no longer a purist, but I promise once you buy your own, you won’t look back.

PS. I also bought this adorable vintage Nancy Drew case for my Kindle. I am in love.

The theme for my suggestions for this break is complete escape, and what better way than with delicious, addictive fiction. If you aren’t traveling this break (I can, unfortunately relate), do what I do best and live vicariously through my favorite writers’ characters.

*Image by thats70 via Tumblr; Image by inefable-melifluo via Tumblr; Image by Josef Koudelka

International Scandals

Amazon CEO Bezos: “Thank u, next, Mr. Pecker”

Within the American business arena, the buzz is currently surrounding Amazon CEO’s Jeff Bezos modern version of the Reynold’s Pamphlet. Posted on several social media platforms yesterday afternoon, Bezos published emails providing evidence that the American Media, Inc. (AMI) attempted to blackmail him for political reasons. In the emails, the AMI demanded that Bezos publicly state that he has, “no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces,” and in exchange the AMI would refrain from posting personal photographs exchanged between Bezos and his mistress. [Bezos, “No Thank You, Mr. Pecker’] Bezos explained that despite his embarrassment of the photographs, he refuses to validate this lie and participate in the AMI’s, “well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption.” [Bezos, “No Thank You, Mr. Pecker”] The AMI is currently facing speculation for politically motivated actions taken on behalf of the Trump campaign and the Saudi Government.

International Plots against the American Government?

Another scandal that has made international news is the recent arrest of the CFO of Chinese technology giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada. The United States requested that Canadian authorities arrest Wanzhou based on charges against the executive for plotting to steal testing equipment from T-Mobile laboratories in Bellevue, Washington and for an elaborate bank fraud that helped Huawei profit by evading Iran sanctions. The two indictments are a part of a “broad and aggressive campaign by the United States to try to thwart China’s biggest telecom equipment maker.” [Conger, “Huawei Executive Took Part in Sanctions Fraud”]

American Paranoia of Foreign Governments

As discussed in last week’s publication, the scope of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has increased under recent legislation. Before this measure was taken, CFIUS only reviewed large, foreign investments including takeovers and controlling stakes in American companies. Now, CFIUS additionally reviews foreign joint ventures and smaller investments in American industries that are considered “strategic” by the Chinese government – including aviation, biotechnology and alternative energy vehicles. The obvious distrust in the Chinese government by the US government has caused Chinese investment to fall more than 90% from the 2017 to 2018.

Concrete Effects

Whether or not Chinese investment in the United States is motivated by strategic, political goals or goals of economic growth is unclear. It also unclear what the effect that the preventative measures against Chinese investment taken by the US Government will have on national security. The negative effects on the US economy, however, are very clear. Going forward, the United States will need to decide whether or not the threat of the Chinese investment is great enough to sacrifice American economic growth.

Unstable Relations

Amid scandals surrounding the business and legal arenas, international relations are unstable. The US Government’s corrupt relationship with the AMI and declining relationship with the Chinese Government due to paranoia has created American distrust in both foreign governments and their own.

Wall Street Bound

Financial District in New York City

Hello, my name is Gabriela – second-year accounting student at the University of Florida.

Why accounting? For me, it’s not the plugging and chugging of numbers that interests me about accounting, but rather the power of knowledge that comes with being able to analyze and understand the ins and outs of businesses. In addition to business, I have also taken many political science and communications courses because I have always loved reading and writing.

This upcoming summer, I will be studying abroad for the third summer in a row. Throughout my time at UF, I have focused on internationalizing my degree and expanding my global perspective and network. Through involvement on campus, I guide UF students through the application and pre-departure process of study abroad and mentor international students studying abroad at UF.

In order to combine all of my interests in business, reading, writing, and international studies, I plan to attend graduate school to earn my Masters in Accounting and my Juris Doctor degree. I hope to eventually work in both the United States and abroad for an international company practicing international tax law. For this blog, I will be updating readers on the changing climate of the business and legal arenas all around the world.