Having joined Legal Business as editor-in-chief in early 2013 with a brief to update and expand the title, we have since made a substantial number of changes and investments, many of which we had the time to either unveil or develop through 2014. That meant expanded coverage of in-house counsel and continuing to build out the title’s online platform, both its website and iPad edition, which is freely available to subscribing law firms. More than 30,000 people also get our email briefing, which is sent out at least four times a week. This push has had a dramatic impact on our online readership, increasing our daily audience ten-fold since we re-launched the site in April 2013. I’m expecting to build on that substantially again in 2015.
In the meantime, I’m signing off with a look back at our favourite pieces and projects of the year.
In-house coverage was a major theme through 2014, starting with the expanded second edition of the Power List, which in 2014 focused on the rising stars of the in-house world. The result was a report and reception that was perhaps our most warmly received project of the year. So much so that we extended the format into a summer reception at The Ivy, including a debate on career development. The Power List will return in 2015 in further expanded form and a new format.
Aside from our regular analysis and client profile, the other stand-out coverage in the client space was our annual in-house survey. The 24-page report this year took an over-arching theme of focusing on the ethical pressures that general counsel face as their role and responsibilities expand, as chronicled in our lead article, Where next, consigliere? The article, The usual suspects provided rankings of client attitudes to individual law firms, while Getting with the programme reported on their broader feelings about advisers and the value they do (or don’t) provide.
We also built on our client coverage in December with the publication of a collaboration with our colleagues at The Legal 500. The Regional Insight report drew on responses from more than 1,200 clients to provide a picture of the UK legal market across eight regions. The 70-page report included profiles on more than 40 clients.
If clients asserting their influence is an obvious industry trend, equally stark and reflected in our coverage is the rising clout of US-bred advisers. Aside from regular reporting on individual US law firms’ efforts in the UK, we focused on the world’s largest legal market in Taking Manhattan, assessing the long-term performance of traditional Wall Street law firms against more globalised and aggressive US rivals as typified by Kirkland & Ellis. We returned to US law firms in our annual Global London report. Our lead piece, Sweeping the board, charted the advances by US firms in London, while The justice play focused on the belated but successful push by US law firms into contentious work in the City.
Sticking with the theme of disputes, Legal Business expanded its coverage in the contentious sphere throughout the year, including with Great expectations, a set-piece interview with the head of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger. Other major pieces on disputes included Battle for the city, which assessed the global rise of London as an arbitration hub, and Ask no quarter which addressed the epic smartphone IP disputes. However, the most ambitious move for us in the space was the launch in October of Legal Business‘ Disputes Yearbook, an 80-page report focusing on all things contentious.
There was also substantive practice coverage in the finance sector, with our pieces The king is dead charting the new breed of dealmakers banking lawyers are looking to cultivate. Legal Business also took an in-depth look at the radical changes sweeping Europe’s credit markets in our May cover feature Back in the machine one of our most ambitious articles of the year.
Legal Business has continued to develop its strand of high-end collaborations via our Insight series and debates, including a popular report on leadership and innovation, produced with Berwin Leighton Paisner. In December we teamed up with PwC for Anatomy of a breach, an investigation on clients’ handling of the aftermath of a cyber-security breach.
In depth reporting on the state of major law firms will always remain a major part of what readers come to Legal Business for and 2014 had plenty of examples, including The programme, which addressed the ongoing overhaul at CMS Cameron McKenna in the wake of its takeover of Dundas & Wilson, and The new boy, which addressed the prospects for Slaughter and May’s celebrated corporate team. However, probably the most popular and widely read firm profile of the year was Consumed, November’s cover feature, which took a detailed look at the cultural tensions and challenges in post-merger Herbert Smith Freehills.
Finally in December we rounded off the year and marked the start of our 25 year anniversary, with How was it for you? a cover feature identifying the people and events that defined the profession since our launch.
All the pieces above are subscription journalism, reflecting our ongoing commitment to high-quality reporting. We’ll be improving our offering to subscribers in 2015, including making it easier for subscribers to gain firm-wide access online and via the iPad. For more information email ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. However, the expansion of our website saw Legal Business publish substantial amounts of open access commentary. Free-access highlights of the year included:
Never mind the magic, feel the substance – Slaughters has only one shot at staying relevant
Bringing greed to law – our part in the profession’s downfall
Marking your own homework, Dentons and a defence of PEP
Join our club – law firms’ obsession with the in crowd is beyond parody
The cost of culture – HSF finds mega-mergers always come at a price
‘Nobody knows anything’ – Goldman is more right than Maister
Whose money making machine? Not all law firms will be richer in a bank-lite world
‘Geography seduced everyone’ – is emerging market bias blind-siding your firm?
There were also plenty of scoops through the year. While breaking news is secondary to our analysis and commentary, Legal Business needed a stronger news operation to complement its long-form writing and our improved website and expanded reporting team allowed us to oblige. Stand out stories over the year included news of the impending transfer of Bingham McCutchen’s City arm to Akin Gump, the emergence of a negligence claim against Clifford Chance over the controversial Excalibur litigation, Berwin Leighton Paisner considering measures to make it easier to exit partners and news of discord and departures in Edwards Wildman’s City arm.
I hope readers have enjoyed our coverage over the year. Our blog is taking a short break over the holiday period. Best wishes for Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year when we’ll have some fresh projects to launch.