This is the third edition of our new review of the week, which I am now bitterly regretting as we are going to press today on an 80-page report. But I can’t let the kids down, so here’s a recap and a dash of commentary on the interesting legal things that happened in the last five days.
Analysis of the week: Since you’ve been gone
The legal profession often gets caught up in the law firm transfer market but in my years covering the industry, I’d never seen anyone ask clients how they feel about it. As such we canvased a group of in-house counsel for their experiences of having their point-men and women decamp halfway through a major matter. Unsurprisingly, they take a slightly more jaded view than law firms, though they are perhaps more relaxed than you may expect. Clients do expect some very personal attention from their law firms when their partner quits for a rival and, even in the age of the bureaucratic panel, will move with star partners in a sizeable numbers of cases.
Theme of the Week: Scotland’s non-independence vote
It’s been a two-year, ill-tempered campaign with Scottish nationalists going long on Braveheart rhetoric and short on fiscal reality to pursue an odd kind of independence that involved sizeable chunks of pooled sovereignty with England and Wales in a have-your-cake-and-eat-it constitutional settlement that would have royally annoyed English voters. The battered Scots legal profession was, meanwhile, largely hoping for the unionist vote it finally got, despite independence being likely to generate substantial amounts of short-term legal work, as it also risked a brain drain and an investment glut until the details of a fully separate Scotland were worked out. In a narrow legal context, over the last 15 years London has massively strengthened its hand over the rest of the UK as our dominant legal services hub – a trend that has already done substantial damage to Scotland’s legal elite. Moreover, devolution has provided little discernable benefit to the Scots’ legal profession. Click here for our pre-vote take on independence and here for a post-match summing up.
Story of the Week: Bingham (finally) loses 22-partner team to Akin Gump
Bingham McCutchen this week suffered what, by some yardsticks, is the largest-ever team loss in the City when 22 partners, including 17 in London and the entirety of its well-regarded UK financial restructuring team, quit for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a move Legal Business first flagged in early September. Bingham has been through some well-publicised reversals recently, including a punishing 2013 financial year. Its London office was also unsettled by the June handover of long-time head Jay Zimmerman, a big supporter of its City arm, to managing partner Steven Browne. Bingham earlier this year approached a number of firms regarding a merger, including Morgan Lewis & Bockius, with someone close to the talks registering a relevant internet address should the bid succeed. A follow-up report from Reuters got hold of an email from Browne downplaying this week’s departures in excessively upbeat terms. As US law watchers will know, law firms do not easily shrug off team losses with tens of millions of dollars of business so Bingham will need to decisively steady the ship soon.
Something for the weekend:
What more relaxing way is there to wind down for the weekend than a well received and thoughtful take from LBC Wise Counsel’s Paul Gilbert on the slippery ethical slope modern general counsel find themselves facing without anyone ever mentioning it? And since we’re going heavy on the tartan this week, you can appreciate the finer constitutional points on Scots independence from renaissance man blogger ObiterJ, whose staggeringly broad grasp of public law never fails to impress. Magic Circle obsessives may also want to check out this short analysis of how their businesses have changed since the boom.
This week’s top posts:
Secured: Akin pulls off one of the largest ever City acquisitions with 22-partner Bingham team
Dissent: Platitudes and a missed debate – how GCs are pushed off their ethical course
The Friday Edit: Endangered female partners, endangered insurance lawyers and more mergers
BLP brings in Magic Circle veteran Bob Charlton to lead on its Asian expansion plans
Freshfields further bulks out US M&A leadership team with Shearman hire