Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade

Michael Chissick

It is dominated by mid-sized firms while global players and City leaders lag far behind. Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) sits in the third spot. You must scroll down nearly 40 positions before finding the likes of Linklaters and Clifford Chance.

It is not the chart for revenue, profits or partner earnings. It is a table of major British law firms’ organic growth over the last ten years, marking the period since the financial crisis. Continue reading “Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade”

Waiting for Carney – hard times and hard choices for restructuring counsel

Monarch Airlines

‘Restructuring types will tell you the market’s just about to take off. It’s all going to hell in a handcart – catastrophe just around the corner,’ says Peter Baldwin, partner and co-head of Ropes & Gray’s special situations practice. Baldwin’s comments, of course, carry more than a hint of irony as hardened insolvency practitioners have been confidently – and wrongly – predicting an explosion of demand for their services since the banking crisis, only to be frustrated by the New Normal of permanently low interest rates.

But while restructuring counsel have cut increasingly forlorn figures in recent years, like Beckett characters forever hoping for the arrival of their Godot – or at least a decent rate rise from Mark Carney – nearly ten years on from the global financial crisis, they wait still. Continue reading “Waiting for Carney – hard times and hard choices for restructuring counsel”

The edge of the cliff – Brexit response for worried GCs

For UK business, 2018 will be dominated by one question: when do we push the button on Brexit? Months of scenario planning have given a sense of the possible outcomes, but there is little confidence that a decision will be taken in full possession of the facts.

‘We are 500 or so days on from the referendum, and it is still not clear what the arrangements between the UK and the EU will be,’ notes Kirsty Cooper, group general counsel (GC) and company secretary at Aviva. ‘As GCs we are being asked to give our best guess, but the scale of the conjecture with Brexit is unusual.’ Continue reading “The edge of the cliff – Brexit response for worried GCs”

The Departed

Why would a partner quit an elite London law firm with decades of history, Rolls-Royce support and a superb client base for the uncertain prospects of the City arm of a US rival?

Money is the obvious answer and in a sector in which laterals regularly increase their compensation by 50-100%, that is obviously a big part of the equation. One Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer rainmaker is currently reported to be sitting on a $10m a year standing offer. Continue reading “The Departed”

Waking the giant

Paul Rawlinson

Making Baker McKenzie stand out was once a simple business. The day in 1948 Russell Baker met John McKenzie by chance in a cab, he had already conceived the notion of an international law firm. Formed in 1949, its first international office was added six years later in Caracas, Venezuela. In the decades to follow, the Chicago-bred firm stood out as a genuinely global operator in a profession that remained largely a domestic concern.

True, having been stitched together from a series of financially separate offices, Bakers never worried the legal elite in New York and London, being dismissed by some as a mid-market franchise thanks to a multi-partnership model that was then unheard of. But Bakers could point to global coverage well beyond any peer, including market-leading practices in many jurisdictions where few rivals dared venture. Passing the $1bn mark in 2001, Bakers turned over more than $2bn just seven years later, making it one of the largest firms in the world. Continue reading “Waking the giant”

Irresistible forces

Donny Ching

Alex Novarese, Legal Business: Looking at the top of the market, how is buying behaviour changing?

Donny Ching, Royal Dutch Shell: I see increasing sophistication in sourcing legal services. I am sure you all have experienced tenders and reverse tenders. More corporates are looking at using different tools, also driven by the contracting and procurement [C&P] organisation. Procuring legal services used to be the last bastion, where C&P could not touch. That is changing. We hired our own pricing analyst sourcing officer a couple of years ago. He has done phenomenal work and opened our eyes to what is possible. Continue reading “Irresistible forces”