‘Brutal clarity on priorities’ – A&O’s former chief looks back to the banking crisis for lessons to aid law firm leaders now

‘Brutal clarity on priorities’ – A&O’s former chief looks back to the banking crisis for lessons to aid law firm leaders now

What lessons can we learn from the 2008/09 financial crisis to help law firm leaders manage the escalating disruption of the coronavirus outbreak ravaging populations and crippling economies? Every crisis is different and this one is very different and it’s no use merely fighting the last war. Nonetheless, in terms of dramatic economic upheaval and rolling uncertainty, the impact of the banking crisis shares some common ground and there are some principles that hold good for any financial crisis.

The first principle is that if you’re the leader when a crisis strikes, you need to act like one. My experience as senior partner of Allen & Overy during 2008/09 was that a crisis will probably define you in that role, for better or worse. There is nowhere to hide, so don’t even try; this is showtime and you are centre stage. Put yourself out there so people know someone with calm assurance is in charge. Continue reading “‘Brutal clarity on priorities’ – A&O’s former chief looks back to the banking crisis for lessons to aid law firm leaders now”

Guest comment: HSF disputes chief assesses the City litigation market’s Covid-19 response

Guest comment: HSF disputes chief assesses the City litigation market’s Covid-19 response

In light of the human impact of Covid-19, the immediate concern for businesses is the health and safety of their people and clients.

In addition, the pandemic has caused unprecedented turmoil for the global economy and many businesses are struggling to cope with the huge challenges. Most are feeling the strain financially. Some are fighting for economic survival.  Continue reading “Guest comment: HSF disputes chief assesses the City litigation market’s Covid-19 response”

Guest post: Coronavirus tears up competition regimes for foreign investments as Europe struggles to shield reeling economies

Guest post: Coronavirus tears up competition regimes for foreign investments as Europe struggles to shield reeling economies

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with the global economy, disrupting all manner of business throughout the world. Stock markets have plummeted and many companies are having to grapple with economic damage that seemed unimaginable at the start of the year.

This unprecedented environment could afford opportunistic buyers the chance to acquire or invest in companies that have been weakened by the crisis. In addition, creditors may unintentionally find themselves in a position where they acquire control over a business. Continue reading “Guest post: Coronavirus tears up competition regimes for foreign investments as Europe struggles to shield reeling economies”

Comment: Coronavirus will brutally strip away the profession’s illusions

Comment: Coronavirus will brutally strip away the profession’s illusions

The longer you do this job, the more your mind wanders to the big moments – recessions, terrorist attacks, political shocks, wars. Yet as I sit here typing this leader in a near-deserted London office, the majority of our team working from home as we try to put this issue to bed, it is a struggle to recall anything that compares to the coronavirus pandemic spreading through the world.

We face unprecedented times – hyperbole typically flung around with abandon until you realise with shock that this time it applies. As I write, London and New York, those famous global cities and the world’s two dominant legal hubs, look within days of total lockdown. Continue reading “Comment: Coronavirus will brutally strip away the profession’s illusions”

Letter from… Warsaw: Weil’s withdrawal from CEE marks a new phase, not the end, of international firms’ regional domination

Letter from… Warsaw: Weil’s withdrawal from CEE marks a new phase, not the end, of international firms’ regional domination

Neglected by foreign advisers for years, the Central and Eastern European (CEE) legal markets enjoyed a few moments of popularity in the press as the decade turned. Most notably, the once-formidable force in the region’s transactional space, Weil, Gotshal & Manges closed its three local branches in Budapest (January 2018), Prague (November 2018) and Warsaw (November 2019).

As the only major Wall Street firm with sizeable CEE coverage (excepting obviously White & Case’s very different model), there were specific reasons behind Weil’s withdrawal. These included a strategic move to focus on the key money centres (the firm also left the Middle East in 2017), a huge amount of local government-related work exposing it to the political turmoil and a large domestic client base not inclined to pay the fee levels demanded by the US elite. Continue reading “Letter from… Warsaw: Weil’s withdrawal from CEE marks a new phase, not the end, of international firms’ regional domination”

Comment: 2020 forecast – City giants forced to offer flexible partnership

Comment: 2020 forecast – City giants forced to offer flexible partnership

I’m going to resist the urge to bang on about the year in review, Brexit or even offer a 2010s retrospective. Not much changed in the profession during the decade – apart from the much-documented onslaught of US law firms – and one way or another we will still be facing another Brexit cliff edge next year.

So we turn instead to something that touches the industry where it lives and breathes: partnership. It defines those who hold it, elevating some while corrupting others, shapes a huge global industry and remains the dominant motivational tool for the profession. The second most-read commentary I ever wrote at Legal Business was a piece earlier this year noting that major law firms have broken their social contract by pushing partnership promotions ridiculously late (the most read was a 2016 piece saying Ashurst needed to pull itself together). Continue reading “Comment: 2020 forecast – City giants forced to offer flexible partnership”

Comment: If A&O’s new leadership team can’t get a mandate, who can?

Comment: If A&O’s new leadership team can’t get a mandate, who can?

Writing at the end of November, with this issue hitting desks only a day or two before the candidates for Allen & Overy (A&O)’s leadership elections are announced – this column is truly hostage to fortune. Who will emerge to lead what has for many been the Magic Circle’s most effectively-led player will have significance spreading well beyond A&O’s City HQ. Still, a good track record cannot be counted on swinging re-election for senior partner Wim Dejonghe, thanks to the firm’s marathon but unsuccessful merger attempt with O’Melveny & Myers. That deal had many supporters but also some entrenched opposition, not least a vocal group of City corporate partners. And even many who were sympathetic grew understandably uneasy at the length of time the deal dragged on. Consequently, this looks to be no rubber-stamping exercise for a second term, even if many believe Dejonghe will run again and stands a good chance of re-election. The open nature of the race was further underlined by the late-minute announcement from managing partner Andrew Ballheimer that he would not seek a second term.

Potential candidates are currently keeping their powder dry, but for months there has been talk that the popular and effective banking co-head Philip Bowden will stand as senior partner, representing a serious candidate with a huge constituency. Even a two-horse race is hard to call, but there has also been suggestion that infrastructure head David Lee could throw his hat in. And the managing partner role is expected to attract a wider field: projects head Gareth Price has been cited, another rock solid candidate, while litigation chief Karen Seward must be weighing her chances. Continue reading “Comment: If A&O’s new leadership team can’t get a mandate, who can?”

Comment: New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised breakthrough

Comment: New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised breakthrough

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. Continue reading “Comment: New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised breakthrough”