Sole adviser – Having it all

Baker & McKenzie, Eversheds and Berwin Leighton Paisner are just a few firms synonymous with adopting the one-client-one-law-firm model, but just who benefits from these deals in the long run?

Robin Saphra’s life got a little easier at the start of the year. The Colt Group’s general counsel (GC), like many of his peers, was juggling a legal spend, that he had to stretch across more than a hundred European law firms.

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Weightmans – Feet on the ground

After four years of consecutive revenue growth and two transformative mergers in 2011, Weightmans is our National/Regional Firm of the Year. However, there’s no chance of any of it going to the managing partner’s head.

Weightmans’ Patrick Gaul (pictured) is as laid back and straightforward as managing partners come. In an unmistakable scouse accent reminiscent of Ringo Starr, his answers are economical and precise. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and, in a trait quite rare among managing partners, is very low on hyperbole.

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Global London – No stone unturned

LB ventures beyond the established elite to highlight five practices blazing a trail in the City.

The need to differentiate in the market is paramount. Some firms have always been good at it, while others have struggled and floundered.

There is a group of US firms in the City that has now established its strengths. Using the benefit of large US platforms, these firms have, over time, built impressive offerings in the City, be it in IP, energy, regulation or litigation.

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SNR Denton – Strained Relations

It is no secret that legacy firm Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) has had a rough ride. During the 2010/11 financial year, the firm’s UK LLP (including the Middle East and Europe) posted an 8% decrease in revenue to £154.4m, while profits per equity partner (PEP) fell to an unimpressive £233,000. This represented a 34% drop (the second in a five-year period) on the previous year and saw the bottom of the equity take home just £156,000.

The EMEA side to the business sits at number 89 in LB’s profitability table, having performed better than just six firms in the entire top 100. But with profit per lawyer (PPL) at an all time low of £29,000 and a margin of just 13%, this firm has almost been run into the ground.

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Capital connections

London firms have traditionally focused their US strategy on New York but a presence in Washington DC has become increasingly popular. Can the growing band of UK firms thrive in the US capital?

At times it can be fashionable to bash Washington DC. For most US senators or congressmen, berating the lobbyist-fuelled, back-scratching political climate in the US capital can do wonders for their re-election prospects. In his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama summed up the popular sentiment. ‘I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right about now: nothing will get done in Washington this year, next year or maybe even the year after that because Washington is broken,’ he declared.

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Global London – London Broncos

While generally international law firms in London have remained static, there have been a handful of US firms that have continued to shine. LB tracks the most aggressive performers in London in the past 12 months.

There must be a lot of empty desks over at Hunton & Williams’ office in London’s Gherkin. Over the course of a few short weeks in April and May last year the US firm lost virtually its entire transactional team, after a partner exodus saw the 35-strong office dwindle to just 13 lawyers (although insiders say that the number is closer to eight) by the close of 2011.

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