A&O merger bid risky but US question can’t be delayed forever

A&O merger bid risky but US question can’t be delayed forever

‘It is an odd couple. I wouldn’t have put them together,’ is one take from a London peer to the news that Allen & Overy (A&O) has sought a $2.8bn union with O’Melveny & Myers. It is certainly a representative view.

Since news of the talks broke in early April, One Bishops Square has gone uncharacteristically coy. However, it is understood that management indicated earlier this year that it was talking to two, then unnamed, US firms. A&O, of course, has to tread carefully – getting a deal through the demanding audience of its London partnership with O’Melveny or any comparable firm is a big ask. Continue reading “A&O merger bid risky but US question can’t be delayed forever”

Star power is core to your pitch – accept it

Star power is core to your pitch – accept it

Within the same week, two Magic Circle firms stressed to Legal Business the same mantra after departures of big-name lawyers: it is not about stars, the focus is the platform and that is what top clients are buying. In a mobile market where even the once-untouchable elite City law firms lose marquee names to high-paying rivals, it is an increasingly familiar refrain, albeit one that has spread from mid-weight stalwarts to the tier more used to the role of hunter than prey.

But law firms – and this goes double for the leaders in the UK and US – would be well advised to go nowhere near the seductive institutional defence and not only because the financial results of the last ten years provide ample evidence that contradicts the assertion. Continue reading “Star power is core to your pitch – accept it”

16 easy steps to making you a great managing partner

16 easy steps to making you a great managing partner

Recently a surprisingly popular column in Legal Business took a jaded view of the state of leadership in major law firms. The nub of our argument was that the law firm c-suite had descended into technocratic managerialism over genuine leadership, leaving once bold institutions to put off crucial decisions.

That piece drew on years of hanging around with managing and senior partners, which at times means feeling more like a leadership therapist/their mother than a reporter. But in the spirit of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, here are my tips to successful law firm leadership. And ignore the flip tone because I mean it all. Continue reading “16 easy steps to making you a great managing partner”

Disputes Eye: Witness statements – going loco with Acratopulo

Disputes Eye: Witness statements – going loco with Acratopulo

With the war to overhaul disclosure raging on, a new battleground already seems to be emerging. Leading the charge is the newly-appointed president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA), Julian Acratopulo.

Clifford Chance (CC) partner Acratopulo, elected LSLA president in April, was quoted as saying witness statements needed reform. Continue reading “Disputes Eye: Witness statements – going loco with Acratopulo”

Deal view: Life after Hatchard – does Skadden hunger to take its peerless M&A team to the next level?

Deal view: Life after Hatchard – does Skadden hunger to take its peerless M&A team to the next level?

‘Theirs is the biggest succession issue faced by any firm in the City,’ says one Magic Circle partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s prospects, following the retirement of veteran dealmaker Michael Hatchard (pictured right) at the end of last year.

The widely-admired Hatchard did much to make Skadden a US trailblazer in public M&A work in Europe. Though leveraged finance hogs the headlines these days, Hatchard and Skadden were still the competitive forces most cited by top M&A partners at London rivals. Having moved from Theodore Goddard in 1994, Hatchard (who remains a consultant to Skadden) was one of the most successful transfers ever in City law. Continue reading “Deal view: Life after Hatchard – does Skadden hunger to take its peerless M&A team to the next level?”

The New Normal is good news for litigators

The New Normal is good news for litigators

Returning with our fourth annual Disputes Yearbook, by far the largest we have yet published, it is still a great time to be a quality litigator or arbitrator at a well-positioned team. While the flood of banking-related work that gave such a shot in the arm to the City contentious market post-Lehman has now largely passed – as have the days when London courts were block-booked by Russian clients – there is still plenty to go around.

As can be seen by our cover feature, the commercial Bar continues to thrive, with the Magic Circle of the chambers variety looking rather more confident over the last decade than their larger solicitor counterparts. Continue reading “The New Normal is good news for litigators”

The last word: New order

The last word: New order

As part of our technology special, we canvass the experts and ask where the legal start-up market is headed

Most will fail

‘1,400 legal tech companies are not going to succeed. This is the normal curve for any disruption of an industry: we’re going to see failures and people abandoning software, you’re going to see a consolidation phase. I see some of these failures freaking people out, but that’s normal. Lawyers have to understand in early-stage entrepreneurship most companies don’t make it. Failure is not investing in a little company that went under; it’s the portfolio not generating an overall great return.’
Dan Jansen, chief executive, Nextlaw Ventures Continue reading “The last word: New order”

The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?

The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?

I used to say three things when asked for a view on the quality of leadership in the profession. Firstly, that it was pretty good (certainly better than commonly supposed). Secondly, the standard has generally improved (since the early 2000s). And, thirdly, the notion that law lags far behind most industries in management is nonsense (poor leadership being rife).

It was only when recently asked this by a new reporter – an experienced business correspondent but new to the profession – I realised that I could only now stand by the latter contention. After all, there is still much to be said for the disciplines of the owner-manager structure, even amid New Law disruption (and perhaps more than ever in an age that has revived the fashion for the cash-burn phase). But as someone who has met hundreds of managing and senior partners, my view is that this is a long way from the golden age of law firm leadership. Standards of operational polish have continued to improve – there is a reason that major law firms so rarely fail in the UK. That matters, but it is only part of the equation in an industry facing structural issues. Continue reading “The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?”

No-one cares about those corporate values

No-one cares about those corporate values

Attending a conference recently for general counsel was a reminder that for all the chasm that remains between clients and law firms, they have both imbibed many of the same corporate fashions. A few years back it was all adding value and performance, now it is ‘values’, ‘authenticity’ and other forms of Diet Coke morality.

Talk to law firms, as with plcs, and without irony, you will hear much about ‘tone from the top’, ‘walking the talk’ and interchangeably using ‘piece’ when you mean ‘issue’. Which would all be fine if there was any indication this was leading to a more ethical or caring profession. It would also help if such talk resonated remotely beyond the upper echelons of the corporate and professional services worlds, and did not provoke huge cynicism in staff and clients. Continue reading “No-one cares about those corporate values”

Brexit looms yet City law tilts further towards US leaders

Brexit looms yet City law tilts further towards US leaders

Striking numbers abound in this year’s Global London table, if you are into that kind of thing. The three pace-setting US brands in London – Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis and White & Case – are all generating in the $300m region in the Square Mile, last year saw the first $10m lateral and my back-of-the-envelope scribbling indicates that the top 50 US firms are comfortably pulling in over $5bn in the UK.

The market is increasingly now defined by this trio, predictably so in the case of Latham, though City lawyers are still trying to get their heads around the idea of Kirkland and White & Case as mounting a frontal challenge. A few years ago, I’d have been equally sceptical, particularly in the latter’s case, but if there is a glaring hole in the game plan of these two outfits, they are hiding it well. With all three making ground in mainstream transactional work through 2017 and securing significant hires – the idea that certain kinds of M&A will remain the preserve of City advisers over the next three years looks fanciful.

Continue reading “Brexit looms yet City law tilts further towards US leaders”