Access your print copy online – LB300

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Limited version Continue reading “Access your print copy online – LB300”

300 not out…the story of Legal Business spanning three decades

‘In the course of the last 30 years, a lot has changed in the legal world but a lot has stayed the same,’ observes Chris Saul, the former senior partner of Slaughter and May. Four months before the first-ever issue of Legal Business hit desks in January 1990, Billy Joel released the song We Didn’t Start The Fire – essentially a list of major world events chronologically since his birth in 1949. This review of 300 issues is more than just a simple list of the main protagonists of global legal practice over the last 30 or so years. But a long list of names have certainly come and gone: Frere Cholmeley Bischoff; Turner Kenneth Brown; DJ Freeman; Wilde Sapte; Landwell; Garretts; Halliwell Landau; Cobbetts; Dewey & LeBoeuf; Dundas & Wilson; Tods Murray; SJ Berwin… We certainly didn’t start the fire, although we lit a few metaphorical ones over the years.

Legal Business arrived after the Big Bang – the 1986 de-regulation of London’s financial services market and subsequent boom, which was followed swiftly by City law’s own big bang – the 1987 merger of Coward Chance and Clifford Turner – a key landmark for law firm globalisation that set the tone for much of our coverage over the past 300 issues. Continue reading “300 not out…the story of Legal Business spanning three decades”

The Euro Elite overview: Enduring endurance

Much of the narrative of Legal Business for the past 300 issues has involved the internationalisation – and the failed internationalisation – of the UK-based global firms. When I started out in legal journalism in the late ‘90s, the activity of the major Anglo-Saxon firms in mainland Europe was at its peak. Many, like White & Case and Weil, Gotshal & Manges and CMS, had cut a swathe through Central and Eastern Europe, positioning themselves to take advantage of the wave of privatisations in new independent nations such as the Czech Republic and Romania following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But the really bloody battles (in a law firm context) were taking place in some of the key markets of France, Germany, Benelux and Italy, where the Magic Circle firms were regularly putting noses out of joint at an alarming rate by either trying to take over leading firms or just hire as many of their key corporate partners as they could.

I witnessed first hand some shockingly arrogant behaviour from senior individuals towards what are now Euro Elite firms. Once, at the launch of a new initiative combining a number of key European firms, I saw one UK management figure sniggering as his German counterpart gave a speech in English. In an interview in Madrid with the fabulously charismatic founding partner of Uría & Menéndez, Rodrigo Uría González, he recalled having to get armed guards to eject from his office a particularly truculent London-based partner trying far too hard to get Uría on board in another hare-brained European alliance. Continue reading “The Euro Elite overview: Enduring endurance”

Euro Elite: Baltics – Small yet spirited

Often overlooked, the Baltics is fast becoming one of the most exciting tech startup hubs in Europe. Home to only roughly six million people, the countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have the largest number of startups per capita in Central and Eastern Europe and the venture capital firm Index Ventures has rated these countries as the most ‘startup-friendly’ in Europe, largely owing to policies on stock options, tax, employment and a low cost of living.

One remarkable statistic is that since Brexit, Lithuania is now the largest fintech hub in the EU and in some cases is actually moving investment from the UK to Lithuania. Continue reading “Euro Elite: Baltics – Small yet spirited”

Euro Elite: Benelux – Reasons to be cheerful

Notwithstanding the macro-level impact of Covid-19 globally, independent firms in the Benelux region have adapted to evolving conditions with remarkable fortitude. At Stibbe, for example, there have been tangible reasons for cheer. According to its managing partner, Wouter Ghijsels: ‘The firm is growing, and the lateral hires and promotions of the past year across the Benelux are a testament to that. Overall, we have had an increasingly successful year across all practices,’ he says.

Equally, Loyens & Loeff has been another success story. Says its Netherlands managing partner, Bram Linnartz: ‘Our firm succeeded in adapting to the ever-changing circumstances and continued to grow at a tremendous pace’. This was helped by the firm establishing a dedicated incident and crisis management team to safeguard the workforce and handle the challenges of the coronavirus crisis. Continue reading “Euro Elite: Benelux – Reasons to be cheerful”

Euro Elite: CEE – Finding the middle ground

The general picture is one of uncertainty across the diverse CEE region; while there was an initial slowdown last year across the board, transactions did pick up towards the end of 2020 in certain sectors. Lawyers report having been busy throughout the year, with Q2 necessitating more of a focus on restructurings and Q4 seeing a return to more usual flows of activity.

Overall, the year can be said to have been defined by volatility. Observing the pace of change, Dragan Karanović, the Serbian-based managing partner of Karanovic & Partners, reflects: ‘It used to be year-on-year, then quarter-on-quarter, and now it’s almost week-by-week.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite: CEE – Finding the middle ground”

Euro Elite: France – Shining lights

In France, as elsewhere, the Covid-19 crisis put firms under high pressure to quickly adapt to new regulations and remote working requirements, both for the firms’ own set-up and for clients undergoing the same challenge. The French market proved to be very resilient to the challenges caused by the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe, with the country’s large independent firms – as full-service outfits – able to help their clients with every Covid-related consequence.

‘There is almost a double movement in the market,’ observes August Debouzy’s managing partner Mahasti Razavi, ‘with transactional activity proving to be quite robust after a noticeable dip in spring, but a clear uptick in restructuring work.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite: France – Shining lights”

Euro Elite: Germany – Flight to quality

Past experience, such as the financial crisis in 2008/09, has shown that the German legal market is robust. Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, independent law firms are therefore largely confident that the market will remain stable and reasonably active.

This is not to say that the pandemic has not had an impact. Indeed, it is viewed by some as marking the end of the economic boom of the past decade. While the German government is keeping companies liquid by injecting cheap money into the economy, future consequences are still difficult to assess. Germany’s GDP fell by 5% in 2020, a shade less than analysts’ predictions and during the worst contraction of -5.7% in 2009. The economy has also fared relatively well compared with some other European nations. Continue reading “Euro Elite: Germany – Flight to quality”