Deal View: Freshfields silences critics with four-piece Cleary team but can it keep up the pressure on Wall St?

Deal View: Freshfields silences critics with four-piece Cleary team but can it keep up the pressure on Wall St?

‘Supercharging it’ and ‘pretty wild’ are not superlatives usually cropping up on your average conference call with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. If the conversation with Ethan Klingsberg (pictured), the Wall Street M&A star that led a four-partner team exit from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, was not very Freshfields, Edward Braham’s unrestrained enthusiasm for the hires when the news broke in October was similarly striking for the unfailingly understated senior partner. Reinforcing how much Freshfields had riding on this, Braham was in New York personally supervising the move upon announcement.

Even critics of Freshfields’ slow-and-steady US strategy are applauding the Cleary haul – the prominent M&A veteran Klingsberg, Meredith Kotler, Pamela Marcogliese and Paul Tiger – as the kind of daring statement that has been previously missing. ‘I admire them for having a go,’ admits one ex-partner, now at a US firm, expressing the consensus view. Continue reading “Deal View: Freshfields silences critics with four-piece Cleary team but can it keep up the pressure on Wall St?”

The Last Word: The client view

The Last Word: The client view

Interviewed for our annual in-house lawyer survey, leading GCs give their take on risk management, becoming business advisers and collaboration

Agile minds

‘Digital technology is something that is upon us. A lot of law firms and in-house departments will start thinking about how we harness the power of AI or technology to help us and not feel threatened by it. How do we make life simpler and not do the mundane? It’s about a mindset of being agile – the world is always changing, last year everyone has seen how rapidly change has come upon us, political and economic. So how do you equip yourself to embrace the good things about change?’ Continue reading “The Last Word: The client view”

Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?

Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?

For a pundit often claimed to be dismissive of the PR community, the subject of this leader may surprise. The reputation was never that accurate – I’ve always said skilled comms professionals are an asset to major law firms – but let’s put that to one side for now. The topic is something I’ve been noticing for some time: the slow decline of the PR professional as consigliere to law firm leaders. While the breed was never plentiful, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a sizeable group of battle-hardened comms hands that had judgement, integrity, long contact lists and who were effective as support and sources of information to managing partners. Plenty had worked outside the legal industry – indeed, they were usually more adept if they had in their junior years – but they had built strong knowledge of the dynamics of the profession and the realities of working for partnerships. They could make things happen and tell partners what they didn’t want to hear.

At their best they were a useful bridge to the outside world and there to help the firm push the message outwards, ever outwards, be that to clients, potential clients, or the wider industry. The best were also facilitators, focused on hooking up management and a Praetorian guard of headline-friendly partners with the better, relevant journalists and helping relationships flourish. Continue reading “Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?”

New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised break through

New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised break through

For more than a decade now technology and innovation jargon has been pushing its way inelegantly into the legal sphere. But with what result? Certainly, it has led to industrial levels of hype as cloying Silicon Valley-speak took hold in even the most inhospitable arenas. But more to the point for the development of the industry is the endemic confusion it has sown. Without re-treading this month’s cover feature on the substance of law firms’ New Law divisions, it is clear that the industry struggles enormously to articulate these services, both at conventional law firms and pure-play providers.

This explains the widespread confusion in the minds of general counsel about what is on offer and how it differs from Old Law. ‘Platforms’, ‘solutions’, ‘suites’ and an avalanche of weird brand names are present, but as to explaining the products on offer, it is just not cutting through. Continue reading “New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised break through”

Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach

Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach

Late last month we published the first Legal 500 UK guide since I took over as editor. While changing something the size of the UK guide is going to take time (for context we include some 1,300 UK and US firms across more than 10,000 individual rankings) readers will have already noticed some improvements.

The legal industry has never had a reputation for being the fastest-moving sector, and the same criticism has at times been levelled against the analysts that assess the profession. As a research business we always start with the quantitative data and tangible evidence as the basis of our research – this means there will inevitably be some time lag between what we are ranking firms on and what is happening within their practice right now. Continue reading “Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach”

Letter from… Sydney: After the churn of the foreign influx, Australian legal elite look primed for their golden age

Letter from… Sydney: After the churn of the foreign influx, Australian legal elite look primed for their golden age

Some speak of the dawn of a ‘golden age’ for the market; others of a sugar rush for the country’s top players; while a third group warns of more challenging times to come. Whichever way you look at it, the feeling is that a new era has begun for Australia’s legal industry.

While relatively unscathed following the global financial crisis a decade ago, the country’s top banks found themselves at the centre of unprecedented scrutiny last year off the back of an inquiry by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. Launched in 2017 after years of political pressure to investigate misconduct in the financial sector, the commission’s reports had by February 2019 led to several serious allegations against major institutions, including charging fees for no service and continuing to bill people who had died. Continue reading “Letter from… Sydney: After the churn of the foreign influx, Australian legal elite look primed for their golden age”

Deal View: A&O’s corporate practice has matured nicely but will O’Melveny fallout take its toll?

Deal View: A&O’s corporate practice has matured nicely but will O’Melveny fallout take its toll?

Habitually viewed as the poor relation to its unparalleled banking and finance practice, Allen & Overy (A&O)’s corporate team has stepped up in recent years, the culmination of a decades-spanning campaign to forge a top-tier name in M&A.

Richard Browne, co-head of corporate, stresses the level of growth the 161-partner practice has seen, having increased its fee income by 50% in the last decade. ‘In the dark ages when I started, A&O’s corporate practice was not the best. It was a banking and finance firm. That is no longer the case at all. Corporate has become the same size as the banking business. It is incredibly profitable, with top-tier work and clients.’ Continue reading “Deal View: A&O’s corporate practice has matured nicely but will O’Melveny fallout take its toll?”

The Last Word: The values are everything

The Last Word: The values are everything

Law firm leaders discuss the challenges of putting values on their corporate agenda and how to balance purpose with the profit motive

Heads out of the sand

‘Most firms realise the importance of values. I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single managing partner who isn’t doing these things. There are two basic drivers – what are your clients asking of you and what are your people asking of you. Anyone who thinks this isn’t important is burying their head in the sand.’
Continue reading “The Last Word: The values are everything”

A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism

A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism

We go to press with Parliament locked in battle with the Government over threats to take the UK into a ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union (EU). I’m not going to offer political predictions but we are clearly at the point where a disorderly exit from the EU is a very real prospect for the country and the profession.

The good news is that the largest UK law firms feel confident they can largely mitigate the immediate impact of no-deal, even with the abrupt end of EU rights to practise that have been such a boon. This is because potentially obstructive Bars in key markets in France and Germany have been kept onside and UK lawyers feel that other decent workaround options are available (see pages 12-13). With leading UK firms also having substantial foreign operations, including the Legal Business 100 having 19% of their lawyers in mainland Europe, and rapidly increasing their ranks of Irish-registered solicitors, the large outfits at least are braced. The Law Society recently issued research arguing a no-deal would knock 10% off the value of the UK legal market, equivalent to more than £3bn, and costing 10,000 jobs. Most law firm leaders see such predictions as excessive – a scepticism I share – though the industry does believe such an exit would be damaging. Continue reading “A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism”

LB100: Legal elite shows resilience amid ominous haze

LB100: Legal elite shows resilience amid ominous haze

It is a measure of how fast-moving the Brexit-dominated landscape now is that imagery in this year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) is dominated by Conrad, Castro and Coppola as the summer months have moved to rapidly challenge notions of how Britain works. One of the most stable and predictable major economies in the world has been locked into a mounting political conflict more akin to a banana republic than the Mother of Parliaments. Sooner or later Westminster drama on this scale will spill into a real economy that already contracted in the second quarter.

And yet, the UK’s largest law firms have endured another 12 months of uncertainty and ominous haze with impressive resilience, pushing revenues up 9% to £26.35bn, one of the better years of all-round performance since the banking crisis. And though a handful of mergers flatter that headline figure, 28 firms managed double-digit revenue growth, showing that plenty of UK firms are thriving in these challenging conditions. Continue reading “LB100: Legal elite shows resilience amid ominous haze”