Letter from… Amsterdam: Dutch lawyers find a deft balance amid testing times in cross-border trade

Letter from… Amsterdam: Dutch lawyers find a deft balance amid testing times in cross-border trade

The secret to making your country attractive to foreign investors at a time when populism is reshaping global politics and protectionism is on the march? A stable and business-friendly government, an open society, a well-trained and internationally-minded workforce, and reliable infrastructure are not bad places to start.

And, luckily for Amsterdam’s legal elite, the Netherlands has them all. ‘In these uncertain times, the country has been able to show some stability and that’s appealing,’ says Allen & Overy (A&O)’s local senior partner Brechje van der Velden. ‘Its attractiveness was and still is its reliability – multinationals having security for the future,’ notes Baker McKenzie’s Kim Tan. ‘We know what’s going to happen. The government is co-operative and transparent.’ Continue reading “Letter from… Amsterdam: Dutch lawyers find a deft balance amid testing times in cross-border trade”

Deal View: Five years on – How Akin Gump’s Bingham acquisition turned bust to boom in the City

Deal View: Five years on – How Akin Gump’s Bingham acquisition turned bust to boom in the City

‘Our team was nearly twice the size of Akin Gump’s London team. There was potential for vulnerability on both sides. They didn’t want their entire lives disrupted by a very large cuckoo in the nest.’ Five years on, restructuring partner James Roome reflects on the potential pitfalls of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s 28-partner acquisition of the City arm of his former shop, Boston’s ill-fated Bingham McCutchen.

In contrast to more ostentatious US counterparts, the Texas-bred Akin Gump has since flown under the radar to turn Bingham’s bust into its boom, thanks largely to the trophy restructuring team fronted by Roome. City growth has culminated in a blistering 2018 run as revenue spiked 28% to $123.5m, catapulting it into Legal Business’ Global London top ten firms by revenue. Continue reading “Deal View: Five years on – How Akin Gump’s Bingham acquisition turned bust to boom in the City”

The Last Word: Sound methods

The Last Word: Sound methods

No-deal Brexit, accountants, Millennials and soothsaying – LB100 leaders give their views on a hazy 12 months ahead

Change is gonna come

‘You cannot continue having 10-15% growth every year – not even the Chinese economy has achieved that! The profession as a whole has had a good year, but the rate of growth has slowed down. The comforting factor is that every single business is in the same place as us. We are all doing our best to protect and predict. Anyone who tells you what’s going to happen… well, that’s just guesswork.’ Continue reading “The Last Word: Sound methods”

As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on

As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on

There are times in my career as a legal pundit where I’ve gone against trend to argue the unpopular view. This is not going to be one of those columns. Instead, this is about speaking up for a truism that is unusual for being largely true and one that law firm leaders themselves frequently cite. I am here to sing the praises for law firms being more specialised in the practices and markets they cover.

Radical stuff, eh? And yet despite how easily the benefits of specialism fit the rhetoric of managing partners, is there much evidence to suggest that the commercial legal profession as a whole is moving in that direction? Far less than commonly believed. Continue reading “As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on”

Profit per partner and other enduring hypocrisies

Profit per partner and other enduring hypocrisies

No-one got into journalism to be consistent, the trade typically being more attractive to trouble-makers than those hunting for enduring responsibility. But while hoping that proud tradition continues, in one area the legal media has pushed its licence for hypocrisy that step too far: the debate around law firm profitability.

This over the years has typically resulted in law firms being entreated to do better on all manner of broader concerns one minute… only for the same publications to turn around and berate such institutions for not driving partner profits up to whatever stratospheric figure is deemed appropriate. Don’t bother to send in examples, LB’s done it with the rest. Woe betide the law firms that try to invest or think imaginatively about retaining profits for the middle term. Continue reading “Profit per partner and other enduring hypocrisies”

Global 100 results show US question looming ever more ominously

Global 100 results show US question looming ever more ominously

Judging the world’s largest law firms, it is becoming a familiar tradition after we unpack the results of the Global 100 to look ahead to a more troubled outlook… which then turns into another year of robust growth.

Take 2019’s results, one of the strongest showings since the banking crisis a decade ago, which have seen the group push revenue up 9% to $113.51bn, while profits per equity partner (PEP) across the 100 increased 7% to an average $1.87m. Over a third of firms saw revenues increase by more than 10%, up from 16 in 2016; just four saw declining turnover. While underlining revenue per lawyer once again barely moved upwards, there are now 19 firms with PEP in excess of $3m, all bar one American, and eight exceeding $4m. Continue reading “Global 100 results show US question looming ever more ominously”

Deal View: A niche within a finance niche gives Simmons that much-needed edge after years of drift

Deal View: A niche within a finance niche gives Simmons that much-needed edge after years of drift

While some law firms claim to be all things to all clients, for almost a decade Simmons & Simmons has focused its efforts with increasing rigour on a select number of sectors. Given its unhappy period of drift as a generalist corporate finance player, recent years have delivered far better results. And nowhere is that more in evidence than in its particular take on financial services.

Its importance is reflected in the numbers. Currently the firm has 117 partners across its financial markets practice, 63 of which are in the UK, while 40% (around £150m) of firm-wide revenue comes from finance. Even here the firm has often avoided too much business-as-usual work for banking clients – a certain route to poor margins – to zero in on funds, asset managers and more esoteric areas of regulation. Continue reading “Deal View: A niche within a finance niche gives Simmons that much-needed edge after years of drift”

The Last Word: New frontiers

The Last Word: New frontiers

Despite Brexit, Trump and trade wars signalling a tentative prognosis from Global 100 leaders for the remainder of the year, many firms entered 2019 with engines blazing

No clarity

‘Volatility, trade wars, Brexit and Trump notwithstanding, it’s been a good financial year. Each of our practice areas are strong in terms of work and economically. Mandates are flowing in, it’s a positive story. Threats are out there. Brexit will be priced into the market for the next eight to ten years. There will be peaks and troughs and no clarity for a while.’ Continue reading “The Last Word: New frontiers”

Paywars III – City elite caught between rock and hard place

Paywars III – City elite caught between rock and hard place

The news last month that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was to push through the highest real-terms pay rises by a major City firm for a decade is a significant moment for the London legal market.

The decision to hike its associate pay scale, raising its benchmark rate for newly-qualified solicitors from £85,000 to £100,000 is a bold and expensive step for the City giant. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest such a move, which will put Freshfields well ahead of its Magic Circle peers, comes at an annual cost in the region of £10m. Continue reading “Paywars III – City elite caught between rock and hard place”

The influx of BAME lawyers may yet be squandered

The influx of BAME lawyers may yet be squandered

The good news is that up close the reality turns out to be not as awful as the cynics have feared. After all, for years the profession has avoided a frontal discussion of its record on ethnic diversity, choosing to submerge the topic within the umbrella of diversity and inclusion even as law firms became more intent on selling their progressive credentials.

And in fairness, avoiding that debate has been as much about a general British reticence to tackle issues of race head on with commentators and the media often treading with excessive delicacy in such matters. Still, the end result has been little frank discussion, certainly compared to the increasingly forthright debate on the profession’s record on female representation and retention or tackling social mobility. Continue reading “The influx of BAME lawyers may yet be squandered”