The Global 100: The European question – Have years of cuts left the Magic Circle exposed as Brexit looms?

 

London’s top firms have been quietly retrenching for years in mainland Europe. As Brexit looms, where has that left the Magic Circle?

‘Welcome to Europe, the haven of legal certainty,’ quips Burkhart Goebel, Hogan Lovells’ managing partner for continental Europe. Continue reading “The Global 100: The European question – Have years of cuts left the Magic Circle exposed as Brexit looms?”

The Global 100 2017

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The Global 100 overview: Atlas shrugged

Political shocks, gyrating currencies and choppy markets – it has been yet another testing year for the Global 100. Legal Business looks at those shouldering the burden and those buckling under

Twelve months ago, the global legal community was reeling from the shock UK referendum result to leave the EU. Senior industry leaders shook their heads and predicted even more turbulent markets in what was already an uncertain global economy.

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The Global 100: The Zone – The US elite turns up the pressure

The gap between top US firms and the middle-tier masses continues to widen as pressure to secure top-decile talent intensifies. Can the chasing pack keep up with America’s elite?

‘The competition is frenetic in terms of attracting talent as is the competition in being retained on the most complex and sophisticated client mandates,’ notes Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison chair Brad Karp. ‘When you think of the continuum with commoditised work on one end and hyper-complex big-ticket work on the other, firms like ours try very hard to ensure that 90% of work is in that tiny zone at the end of the spectrum.’

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‘It’s the clothes on top that matter’: how much does structure affect the Swiss Verein firms?

DLA Piper, the world’s second-largest Swiss Verein-structured law firm, saw global turnover in 2016 drop 3% to $2.47bn from $2.54bn. The drop in overall revenue was attributed by the firm to exchange rate fluctuations across the global firm’s international business, which is divided between an international LLP and a US LLP. In sterling, DLA says, turnover was up 3%.

Similarly, Norton Rose Fulbright saw turnover drop 3% to $1.69bn, with the firm again attributing the performance to currency fluctuations. In a statement, a spokesperson said the firm had seen a 3% increase on 2015 revenue using like-for-like exchange rates, adding: ‘Our stated US dollar figures are very susceptible to currency exchange moves and, in the past year, the sterling, euro, Australian/Canadian dollars and South African rand experienced significant negative moves against the US dollar.’

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Solid foundations but a struggle to build – Can BLP regain the confidence of its 2000s heyday?

Last year did not run smoothly for Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP). Merger talks with Greenberg Traurig publicly fell apart amid some acrimony, while the City firm’s revenues dipped 2% in the 2015/16 year, making it one of the few Legal Business 100 players to see its top line slide.

Even before that, BLP had been through a factional election in 2015 which elevated employment specialist Lisa Mayhew as its new managing partner, while gripes over a disastrous run of partner hires on guaranteed pay deals several years previously have still not been forgotten.

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London calling: the client view

‘I prefer to use the Magic Circle rather than US firms. They are, if anything, becoming better-run businesses.’
Philip Bramwell, BAE Systems

It should come as no surprise that clients on the global stage continue to demand more from their advisers. Yet, for the most part, those London-headquartered firms at the top end of the Global 100 report are delivering for clients despite the influx of international firms, particularly those based in the US, into their home market.

‘I continue to believe that the Magic Circle firms offer excellent strength and depth on big-ticket issues,’ says Philip Bramwell, group general counsel (GC) of multinational defence, security and aerospace company BAE Systems. ‘Their strength is in their gene pool – their core systems and the processes that they continue to invest in – and they are, if anything, becoming better-run businesses.’

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