Redundancy announcements increase as top partners predict difficult H2 for UK firms

Continuing pressure on UK legal market threatens largest redundancy levels since 2009

The level of legal redundancies this year is on course to be the largest since 2009 as the number of law firms announcing job cuts grows and senior partners predict tough months ahead.

CMS Cameron McKenna, which launched a review of its UK and Central and Eastern Europe business in January, last month took the final decision to make 37 staff redundant. The news came as 330-lawyer, top 50 UK firm Trowers & Hamlins also announced in late May that seven employees – three secretarial staff and four fee-earners – had been made redundant, with the firm blaming continuing pressures on the UK legal market.

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HSF merger throws up partnership issues as Herbert Smith issues cash call

HSF merger throws up partnership issues as Herbert Smith issues cash call

Global giant raises capital and shakes up corporate as HSF moves through merger integration

The merger between Herbert Smith and Freehills continues to give rise to growing pains as last month saw the UK half of the firm issue a multimillion pound cash call to its equity partners in preparation for financial integration.

The cash call was issued in a memo sent earlier this year to all equity partners. It is understood that they have been asked to contribute £2,000 per equity point. Herbert Smith’s lockstep ladder runs from 43 to 100, meaning those at the top of equity, around 65 individuals, are liable to pay around £200,000 each.

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Magic Circle unveils new pay levels

Four of the five Magic Circle firms have now revealed their decisions on newly qualified (NQ) and trainee salaries, with decisions pending from the remainder of the top ten City firms.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer so far tops the table for NQs, despite its decision to freeze pay for its career milestone foundation. Junior-banded associates – equivalent to NQ to one-year PQE – will earn between £65,000 and £72,500. The firm’s trainee pay has also been frozen at £39,000 for first-year trainees and £44,000 for second-year trainees.

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Ashurst takes lead role in headline deals

Top 15 UK firm advises clients Commerzbank and Morrisons

Ashurst is leading on two headline transactions announced in mid-May as Germany’s Commerzbank entered talks to sell £4bn of its UK property loans and supermarket Morrisons signed a long-term deal with online grocer Ocado.

The top 15 UK law firm is advising longstanding client Commerzbank on the proposed sale of its Eurohypo UK operation to US bank Wells Fargo and private equity group Lone Star.

The work was awarded to Ashurst following a competitive pitch in November 2012. For Ashurst, which had an existing relationship with Commerzbank through its German operations, this will be the first corporate M&A deal it has advised Germany’s second-largest bank on, having undertaken largely finance mandates in the past.

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Cinven gifts Freshfields with IPO while HSF defends Severn Trent

A handful of major corporate mandates were unveiled last month as private equity house Cinven kicked off its £1.4bn proposed initial public offering (IPO) of annuity provider Partnership Assurance Group and Severn Trent rejected a preliminary takeover offer by an international consortium.

Amid signs of renewed confidence in the IPO market, Cinven instructed Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – led by corporate partners Mark Austin and Adrian Maguire – to advise on the float of Partnership, which Cinven acquired for €200m in 2008.
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Birmingham’s Shakespeares becomes 72nd ABS of 2013

Number of firms granted licences by SRA hits 2012 levels

The number of firms granted alternative business structure (ABS) status in 2013 has now hit the same level as for the whole of 2012, as Shakespeares became the latest mid-tier outfit to announce it has been granted a licence in mid-May.

Shakespeares was the 72nd firm to obtain a licence in 2013, the same number as obtained a licence in total in 2012 after the Solicitors Regulation Authority began accepting applications on 3 January. After a slow start, the first licences were granted in March 2012, when Co-operative Legal Services, Kent family practice Lawbridge Solicitors and Oxfordshire firm John Welch & Stammers became an ABS. 144 firms have now been granted ABS status.

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Travers Smith suffers defeat for pregnancy dismissal

Travers Smith suffers defeat for pregnancy dismissal

Top 50 City firm Travers Smith has suffered the rare public reverse of losing a high-profile discrimination case after a tribunal found the firm denied a former trainee a place in the firm because she became pregnant.

The Central London Employment Tribunal found that Travers ‘contrived to prevent Katie Tantum from being offered a post as a newly-qualified solicitor because of her pregnancy’, according to a statement by Tantum’s solicitors, Leigh Day.

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Bluechips continue to grow legal teams as buyside lawyers shift from external counsel

Bluechips continue to grow legal teams as buyside lawyers shift from external counsel

Bluechips continue to grow legal teams as buyside lawyers shift from external counsel

In-house departments are expanding rapidly and overshadowing private practice growth as corporates plan to further bolster their internal legal capability.

Both recent statistics and developments on the ground indicate that corporates are increasingly addressing issues such as regulatory and compliance pressures, as well as budgetary restraints, by expanding their internal capabilities.

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Lateral push sees key UK players switch to US firms

US firms in the City continue to demonstrate their appetite for big name lateral hires from leading UK firms, with Latham & Watkins and Reed Smith picking up experienced partners from Clifford Chance (CC) recently, while Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan announced the hire of disputes expert Ted Greeno from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF).

Latham & Watkins’ acquisition of CC’s global head of private equity, David Walker, particularly caught the eye last month. This is one of the most significant blows to CC’s corporate practice since the departure of Adam Signy to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 2009.

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Global firms strengthen white-collar practices

Global firms strengthen white-collar practices

A number of global firms boosted their white-collar defence practices last month with a spate of hires from US and UK government agencies. The hires come as regulators on both sides of the pond continue to tighten their grip on domestic and international businesses.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer hired Matthew Friedrich, former acting head of the criminal division at the US Department of Justice (DoJ), to bolster its white-collar practice based in Washington DC.

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