There is a curious phenomenon that affects both the NHS and, now it seems, the legal sector. The reality gap. Ask a patient treated in hospital for a broken leg what their experience of the doctors and hospital was, and in the main it will be positive. But ask the same person what they think of the NHS on the whole, and usually they will say that the whole system is going to the dogs.
On the face of it, news that Bristol-based TLT is to open simultaneously in Scotland, by acquiring niche firm Anderson Fyfe, and also in Belfast, by hiring a small team of local lawyers, is hardly earth-shattering.
But while the news may be dominated by major international firms’ expansion plans in Asia, or even significant full-scale tie-ups such as McGrigors and Pinsent Masons, you could argue that, relatively speaking, low-key moves such as TLT’s make better strategic sense for all concerned.
As LB was going to press, news emerged that Dewey & LeBoeuf was set to lose its recently acquired London private equity team, which includes two partners and nine associates, to McDermott Will & Emery. So another two partners have jumped ship, bringing the total number of partner exits close to 70 since the turn of the year. It is entirely possible that by the time you read this, further departures will have occurred.
London disputes specialist Stewarts Law was shortlisted for Law Firm of the Year at the Legal Business Awards in February on the back of an outstanding performance during 2010/11. But with revenues up 42%, a profit margin of 41% and PEP of £890,000, you could be forgiven for wondering why it has now decided to open two offices in the US.
The Scottish market is awash with merger rumours. Perhaps the imminent tie-up between McGrigors and Pinsent Masons has kick-started the recent developments but Scottish managing partners now have consolidation high up the agenda.
The marriage between McGrigors and Pinsents, which is expected to go live in May, will create a national heavyweight with combined revenues of roughly £282m and over 1,500 lawyers, pushing the new venture comfortably into the top 15 of the LB100.
James Tsolakis of The Royal Bank of Scotland published his annual report, A perspective on the legal market, in March. In it, he says UK firms have 5% overcapacity in fee-earner resources and has told LB that firms need to address this issue at partner level. The report also says that the success of new partner compensation models that align compensation with performance depends on ‘effective partner appraisal systems’.
After two years of speculation in the financial services sector, it has finally happened. Margaret Cole, Financial Services Authority (FSA) managing director and all-round tough lady, is leaving the regulator after seven years.
Dubbed in 2011 by a finance partner as the ‘most hated woman in the City’, Cole’s legacy at the UK watchdog will forever be entrenched in her recent uncompromising stance against the country’s banking industry. The past five years have seen the FSA hand out a number of jaw-dropping fines and crack a series of insider trading rings.
In the same way the sports media has speculated long and hard these past couple of years on the ‘demise’ of Tiger Woods, much has also been said about the Magic Circle also losing its aura of invincibility since the global financial crisis.
The Magic Circle’s relentless pursuit of domination has inspired awe over the last two decades but at the same time has drawn brickbats when things have gone awry. It is all too easy to build something up only to knock it down.