Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?

Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?

Well, 2017 promised to be a challenging year and it did not disappoint with its disappointment. With the Brexit vote upsetting an already-delicate balance in key markets, an inconclusive general election in the summer managed to ramp up the uncertainty further.

Overall, deal activity was solid throughout the year but no more, beyond a continued boom in private equity and leveraged finance work. The long term regulatory squeeze on the banking and securities industries continues, with even once apparently unstoppable shops like Goldman Sachs struggling to live up to their reputation. It is hard for partners of my vintage to get their head around the notion that the major banks are not as central clients as they used to be and will likely become less so in future. But they should get over it. Continue reading “Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?”

Super growth or decline? Which firm are you?

Super growth or decline? Which firm are you?

Everyone knows the legal industry has been a different place since the banking crisis but it is only when you take the long view that you realise how dramatic these changes have been.

For this month’s cover feature, we looked at three mid-tier law firms that have sustained above-trend growth for ten years. To identify our trio we looked long term at the performance in the LB100, focused on organic growth. Our working assumption was that, while top firms dominated until the credit boom, in relative terms smaller practices excelled over the last ten years. It turned out we had underestimated just how wrenching that post-Lehman shift has been. Continue reading “Super growth or decline? Which firm are you?”

Ditching lockstep – better too late than never?

Ditching lockstep – better too late than never?

‘Lockstep in its current form has to go. It’s just not working.’
Legal Business, June 2015

‘The current incarnation of lockstep is an overly restrictive model that was a child of its time…. The failure to substantively adapt the model… has increasingly threatened to shatter a system that still delivers considerable benefits.’
Legal Business, October 2013

*** Continue reading “Ditching lockstep – better too late than never?”

Disputes Eye: Disclosure reform – time to err off the side of caution

Disputes Eye: Disclosure reform – time to err off the side of caution

It takes a brave soul to tackle the issue of extortionate disclosure in the UK, and finding the happy medium required to satisfy both fretting clients and sceptical lawyers is difficult.

But that is exactly what the Disclosure Working Group is attempting to do, introducing a wave of reforms in November that will run as a mandatory two-year pilot across the business and property courts in the Rolls Building, starting in 2018 subject to approval from the Civil Procedure Rules Committee. Continue reading “Disputes Eye: Disclosure reform – time to err off the side of caution”

Letter from Paris: After the malaise, local counsel rediscover la joie de vivre

Letter from Paris: After the malaise, local counsel rediscover la joie de vivre

It was one of the defining moments of the year: on 7 May president-elect Emmanuel Macron strode towards the stage outside the Louvre to give his victory speech to Ode to Joy. Much has been written on what that moment meant for France as a more confident, globally-minded country. The triumph of a 39-year-old ex-banker who marked his success with the EU’s German-born anthem rather than La Marseillaise has done much to raise hopes in the French business community.

Rising confidence is obviously welcome for the profession with the French legal market remaining one of Europe’s key hunting grounds and – unlike Germany’s increasingly-price-sensitive sector – one that comfortably sustains Global 100-level profitability. Continue reading “Letter from Paris: After the malaise, local counsel rediscover la joie de vivre”

Deal view: A&O does private equity – faint praise confounded but a plateau lurks

Deal view: A&O does private equity – faint praise confounded but a plateau lurks

‘Since Stephen Lloyd joined Allen & Overy (A&O) its star has definitely risen in the world of private equity,’ says one rival partner. As wringing any non-contemptuous words from rivals in the thrusting world of leveraged finance is hard, this view counts as high praise.

The team had a bumper couple of years after Lloyd defected from Ashurst in 2013, shortly joined by ex-colleague Karan Dinamani. Their arrival augmented a practice that previously relied on Gordon Milne as its sole dedicated UK partner. The recruitment of Lloyd, which former senior partner David Morley took a personal hand in, was symbolic for a shop that until then seemed to view private equity (PE) as a conflict-strewn liability for its debt finance team rather than an opportunity for the M&A department. Continue reading “Deal view: A&O does private equity – faint praise confounded but a plateau lurks”

A life in politics – the tricky art for law firm leaders of governing the ungovernable

A life in politics – the tricky art for law firm leaders of governing the ungovernable

Laura Empson reflects on the confidence trick required of successful law firm leaders

Leaders, by definition, must have followers. This statement is axiomatic. But among lawyers it is not nearly as simple as that. In firms filled with highly-educated, independent thinkers, who do not like being told what to do, finding people who think of themselves as followers is not easy. And finding people who are happy to put themselves forward as leaders can be even harder. Continue reading “A life in politics – the tricky art for law firm leaders of governing the ungovernable”

Any conversation is potentially significant – the emerging skills that will equip the best lawyers of the future

Any conversation is potentially significant – the emerging skills that will equip the best lawyers of the future

David Morley reflects on the impact of communication in professional services and opportunities for lawyers to improve

My guess is that a law firm partner or general counsel might have the opportunity for around 100 high-value conversations every year in their professional life. That is 100 out of the roughly 10,000 conversations the average adult will have each year. What do I mean by high value? A career-enhancing conversation that transforms a situation or a relationship for the better. It might be with a client, a fellow partner, an associate or someone else. Continue reading “Any conversation is potentially significant – the emerging skills that will equip the best lawyers of the future”

The last word: 2017 – year in review

The last word: 2017 – year in review

More mergers, more Brexit and more uncertainty – law firm leaders reflect on the past 12 months and look ahead

Feeling hot

‘It has been a great year to be a private equity financing lawyer! The debt markets for leveraged finance have been hot, and our banking and high-yield team has advised sponsor clients on some of the largest and most complex financings in 2017. We expect this trend to continue with lots of liquidity being provided to fund buyouts from both private debt funds and the debt capital markets. It has been a strong market for the top US firms in London.’
Neel Sachdev, partner, Kirkland & Ellis Continue reading “The last word: 2017 – year in review”

The Legal Services Act ten years on – still waiting for the Big Bang

The Legal Services Act ten years on – still waiting for the Big Bang

As this issue hits desks, it will be ten years since the Legal Services Act gained Royal Assent, ushering in the most liberal services market in the world by some margin. Given that span of time, and the five years since the most radical elements of the act came into force with the regime for alternative business structures (ABS), it is natural to ask if it has lived up to billing.

There clearly was an impact of sorts, supporting an environment where new business models and fresh thinking were encouraged. That renewed the legal ambitions of the accountants, encouraged the pioneering UK launch of Slater and Gordon, and made Co-op as close as we have got to Tesco law. After a slow initial start there are now over 700 licensed ABSs in England and Wales, representing a significant chunk of the market. Also significant is the messy regulatory fallout and ongoing turf war that it triggered, which has continued with varying degrees of intensity ever since. Continue reading “The Legal Services Act ten years on – still waiting for the Big Bang”