A divided nation: lawyers wait to see how the election result will affect the profession © Illustration by Tom Straw

Whatever the result of the US presidential election, the legal profession will be paying close attention to what the legal implications might be — including how it will affect lawyers and international law.

The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as a justice of the US Supreme Court at the end of October established a conservative supermajority on the bench, in a move that will have a lasting legal impact regardless of who becomes president. But what is the future of the Supreme Court?

While we wait to hear the outcome of the election, this week’s Full Disclosure newsletter looks at how the world’s biggest accountancy firms are building up their legal services.

In case you missed it last month, have a look at our FT Innovative Lawyers Europe special report. You can also still watch sessions from the FT Live awards event for free on demand here.

The following stories are taken from our Full Disclosure email briefing, sent to FT subscribers in the industry each week, sharing what has been most popular with legal readers on FT.com.

First, a warm welcome to any Full Disclosure readers experiencing a sense of déjà vu. At the time of writing, the US presidential election hangs in the balance and, once again, we all wonder why we ever trust polls.

In the UK, Full Disclosure will be distracting itself with legal news. First up, Deloitte has acquired UK law firm Kemp Little, including 29 partners and 57 lawyers. 

The Big Four accountancy firms’ march into legal services shows no sign of abating and with this deal to buy the tech-focused £16.5m revenue group — its first law firm acquisition — Deloitte has almost doubled its legal headcount in the UK.

The Big Four now employ more lawyers than most law firms — PwC boasts around 3,500 — and are competing with many of them in the mid-tier UK market. There remains a gulf between the rates charged by top-tier firms and the margins the Big Four can earn but there is no doubt that their access to large technology platforms and teams of accountants and other executives is proving disruptive. 

This week I am interested in two topics. First, I want to hear your thoughts on — what else — the US election. How will it affect lawyers and international law? What are your thoughts on the direction of the Supreme Court? Second, I want to hear your thoughts on the legal tech market. How scalable is it? Are you a sceptic or a cheerleader? And what are the problems with nascent legal tech firms from a user’s perspective? Get in touch at kate.beioley@ft.com

City charter pushes business to bring through senior black executives 

© Bloom/Getty Images

Law firms including Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills have signed up to a charter that pushes for greater representation of black people in senior positions in financial and professional services companies in the UK.

“The charter has been modelled on a similar Women in Finance initiative that was launched four years ago by the Treasury, with the emphasis on measurable data against which firms can assess progress, clear action plans, accountability at the top level of each firm, and independent monitoring.”

Garrick tweaks club rules to take advantage of lockdown loophole 

© Tolga Akmen/AFP

Exclusive London gentlemen’s club the Garrick has updated a rule that bans members from discussing work matters over lunch to make use of an exemption in the city’s coronavirus restrictions. Members can discuss “club business”, though other business deliberations remained barred.

“The new guidance enables the 189-year-old establishment — among the last remaining clubs in the UK where women are banned from becoming members — to exploit an exception to coronavirus restrictions for business meetings without breaking its own long-held rule on work discussions.”

Johnny Depp loses high-profile libel case 

© Leon Neal/Getty Images

On Monday the actor Johnny Depp lost his high-profile — and often lurid — libel lawsuit against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers over claims he was a “wifebeater” in what lawyers called the libel trial of the century. Mr Depp claimed he suffered “significant reputational damage”.

“In his ruling on Monday Mr Justice Nicol dismissed Mr Depp’s claim and said he accepted ‘the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved’ to the standard of proof required by Britain’s civil courts. The judge said he concluded what The Sun wrote was ‘substantially true’.”

UK faces legal action over refusal to hold Russia probe 

© (c) Doroo | Dreamstime.com

The UK government is facing a legal challenge over its refusal to launch an independent inquiry into possible Russian interference in UK elections as recommended by parliament’s intelligence and security committee.  

“Six MPs and peers lodged a judicial review challenge on Thursday [last week] alleging that the government’s inaction breaches its legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantee citizens’ rights to free and fair elections.”

Deloitte acquires Kemp Little in UK legal services push 

© Anna Gordon

Deloitte UK has acquired its first law firm in the latest sign of expansion of a Big Four firm into the UK legal market. 

“Deloitte’s tax and legal department made revenues of £910m in the 12 months to May 31 2020, making it the UK firm’s largest division ahead of its audit and consulting practices. However, the firm has refused to disclose how much of that figure was generated purely from legal work, and how much from tax advice.”

Closing argument 

If you’ve found yourself shouting at the TV as US election results come in, or uttering phrases like “I don’t understand”, the historian Simon Schama is here to help with his essential guide to understanding the “two Americas” that make up the polarised nation. This is a contest between two tribes, he writes, but also a test for American democracy itself. Sombre reading, whatever your politics. 

“More than any election in living memory, this one is not so much a choice between opposed policies as a totalising and bitter fight to the death between two mutually exclusive visions of what America is meant to be. In the way of such battles of beliefs (more akin to a war of religion), each side is convinced that the victory of the other spells the end of the republic, so the contest turns into a competition of terminal nightmares.”

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