Power brokers

As all eyes turn to energy as the safe hedge in a turbulent market, there is no doubt that the sector’s general counsel are in an excellent bargaining position

In terms of legal spend, an energy company is a particularly lucrative client. To begin with, the acquisitive nature of these cash-rich corporates means that transactional advice is clearly a must. Also, as the recent BP oil spill all too effectively demonstrated, the high-risk nature of the industry provides a fair flow of environmental and litigation instructions too.

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Chindia – Centre of the universe

Singapore has emerged as the location of choice to serve the legal markets in China and India and is attracting waves of international firms. LB looks at the reasons why the jurisdiction is king of the so-called Chindia market

With the European Union in its spiralling debt mess and the US hugely overdrawn, global businesses are concentrating their efforts on Asia and, naturally, law firms are following. But whereas Hong Kong was traditionally the default outpost for international law firms, Singapore has emerged as the destination of choice for many newcomers. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the city state is ideally positioned to serve both India and China, two major economic powerhouses that form the so-called ‘Chindia’ market. Secondly, the shackles that restricted foreign firms operating in Singapore have been loosened.

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Global 100 – The state of the union

After a series of shocks to the global economy, followed by Dewey & LeBoeuf’s downfall, there’s plenty of concern for US firms

American managing partners have become accustomed to false dawns and 2011 had a depressingly familiar feel to it. The start of the year was promising, with counter-cyclical workflows in litigation and bankruptcy joined by an uptick in corporate deal activity, but this came to a familiar halt over the summer. The continuing crisis in the eurozone and uncertainty over America’s debt ceiling undermined any hope that the activity through the first half of the year would continue for the second six months.

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Global 100 – Podium Standings

The world’s 100 largest law firms have faced another challenging year of depressed economic markets and little to no transactional work. So how have they fared? LB finds out

The combined revenues of the 100 biggest law firms in the world reached new heights this year. Setting a five-year Global 100 record, combined turnover came to over $81bn, greater than the Olympian levels the market reached in the boom year of 2007. In broad strokes it has been another year of single digit rises in revenues, profits and lawyer numbers. But with inflation running at around 3% in the UK and the US, performance in real terms has been more muted than those top-line figures suggest. The past financial year was essentially a flat market, a solid performance but nothing to set the world alight. 

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The College of Law – For Sale


LB meets Nigel Savage, the man responsible for turning around the fortunes of the College of Law

Professor Nigel Savage, chief executive of The College of Law (CoL), is eating his second breakfast of the day, Marmite on toast. ‘I’ve got an incredible metabolism,’ he says as he takes the lift up to a third-floor classroom at the CoL’s smart campus in London’s Moorgate. He finishes his toast, and settles in for our interview with a huge cup of tea. Over the course of the hour he stands up, paces the room, puts his feet up on a chair and bangs his hand on the table when he needs to emphasise a point.

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IP review: No quarter given

In-house teams are generally cutting back on legal spend with law firms but IP is a trend buster. As budgets continue to be squeezed, how can law firms run profitable IP businesses that offer good value?

According to his biography, published late last year, the late Steve Jobs was so incensed by Android’s alleged similarities to his beloved iPhone that he vowed to spend every cent of the $40bn Apple had in the bank defeating its rivals in court if he had to. And given the persistent arms race between Apple and the likes of Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Motorola, it seems no-one embroiled in the high-stakes smartphone and tablet wars is particularly concerned about cutting back on legal spend anytime soon.

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The glue that binds

As the Swiss Verein legal structure becomes increasingly popular among global law firms, the debate hots up over whether its use is a true representation of global expansion. But what is a Verein and who does it benefit?

The Swiss Verein is all the rage. Law firms have turned to the legal structure to help co-ordinate large international mergers, modelling their expansive structures after the Big Four accounting firms: KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and Ernst & Young. With the appetite for mergers continuing unabated in 2012, as seen recently with the March collaboration of King & Wood Mallesons, the Verein seems to be the structure of choice for law firms.

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Structural challenges – Risk Management Round Table 2012

The fifth LB/Marsh round table brought together a group of risk experts to discuss the practical effects of alternative business structures and who to appoint in key management roles created by the SRA.

The timing could not have been better – the fifth risk round table hosted by LB and Marsh took place at the end of March, just a day after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) issued its first three licences for alternative business structures (ABS) under the Legal Services Act. Unsurprisingly, then, the topic of ABS and commercial law firms taking on external capital was high on the agenda.

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Bevan Brittan – Don’t Look Back

Bevan Brittan’s new managing partner began work on 1 May, taking over a firm in a much stronger position than in 2008. While Duncan Weir is keen to move on and face up to future challenges, he will ensure his recent experience in helping turn the firm around will not be wasted.

Bevan Brittan wasn’t ready to participate in this feature initially. When we asked to speak to outgoing chief executive Andrew Manning and new managing partner Duncan Weir for our April issue, we were asked to hold off for a few weeks.

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Breaking the Circle

In 2002 LB made the bold move of placing Herbert Smith into the Magic Circle. But ten years on, has the firm kept up the pace?

What a difference a decade makes. In the April 2002 edition of LB, we sparked widespread debate when we placed Herbert Smith into the Magic Circle (see ‘Fellowship of the Circle’, LB123). We called it the ‘biggest change at the very top of the legal market since the merger of Clifford Turner and Coward Chance’ and praised the UK firm for its leading European corporate practice, its stellar financial performance and its successful challenge to the perception that it was a litigation-only firm.

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