The launch of Legal Business’s debut Disputes Yearbook is just one of many signs of how dramatically the dynamics of the global law game have changed over the last decade. While our lead article, Martial Law, assesses whether the dramatic rise of the contentious lawyer has reached a post-Lehman plateau, there is no sign of litigation returning to the near backwater it was becoming at many City firms in the early 2000s.
It’s possible that a stabilising global economy will have an impact on this counter-cyclical business, but in truth pure crisis-related commercial disputes work has under-shot expectations and manifested with a greater time lag than many expected.
As such, many of the underlying factors strengthening the hand of contentious lawyers such as increasingly proactive regulation and enforcement, the rise of global arbitration in a multi-polar world and the relative patchiness of M&A and securities work show no signs of abating.
Glancing at the headline financials on the litigation teams at major commercial law firms, it’s obvious that it is now common for disputes teams to exceed firm-wide profitability by a good margin, probably in part because litigation teams rarely benefited from the over-investment seen in corporate practices at firms with delusions of M&A grandeur.