South – South End

South – South End

The wind blowing up from the south region has the familiar whiff of stagnant revenues again this year. As was the case in 2010, more than half the firms in this peer group have posted negative or flat turnover growth, a sure sign that market conditions are taking their toll in this fiercely competitive market. These firms are perhaps suffering more than most, largely because competitive pricing pressure on London-based firms means that those south of the capital can no longer merely compete on price – they have to match London rivals for quality as well.

The averages for this peer group remain among the lowest of any peer group in the LB100. However, these figures look less concerning now that some of the larger grossing law firms in other peer groups have moved out to the Major UK group. That said, not one of the South firms has revenues anywhere close to £60m, which is what the top regional firms have traditionally been pulling in.

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Major UK – Major Overhaul

Major UK – Major Overhaul

In tearing up the rulebook in this year’s Legal Business 100, this peer group has changed radically to reflect the global transformation of some firms and the increased national profile of others.

To our new Major International peer group (see page 84) moves global giant DLA Piper – whose presence in the Major UK group, contrasting with firms such as Burges Salmon, was always incongruous – and Squire Sanders Hammonds which, following a major transatlantic merger, can no longer be considered just a national UK firm.

 

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Insurance – Insuring the Future

Insurance – Insuring the Future

This year was all about the urge to merge and this time next year the Insurance group will look very different, with two firms missing after a period of consolidation among the Insurance group.

Davies Arnold Cooper will be transformed after its November merger with rival Beachcroft goes live to create DAC Beachcroft. Meanwhile Clyde & Co and Barlow Lyde & Gilbert are set to combine to create the largest firm in this peer group. When the two merge later this year, they’ll become a £307m behemoth, nearly treble the size of nearest competitor Holman Fenwick Willan.

The flurry of tie-ups is partly due to major shifts in the insurance market over the past few years, with a number of large insurers squeezed after a spate of man-made and natural disasters.

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London Midsizers – Steady As She Goes

London Midsizers – Steady As She Goes

London’s Midsizer legal landscape looks a little different this year. Field Fisher Waterhouse and Withers move into the Major City ranks, each with revenue surpassing £90m, establishing them as major forces in the City.

More impressive, however, is the entrance of litigation boutique Stewarts Law into the LB100 this year. And what an entrance it is. One of the standout performers across the whole table, the firm has had a bumper year.

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Major City – Bits and pieces

Major City – Bits and pieces

Many of the firms in the Major City group will look back on 2010/11 with mixed feelings. Some firms will feel a sense of relief that, broadly speaking, any further disasters were averted but others will be frustrated that key transactional markets refused to pick up significantly. Strategically, however, there are still a couple of firms in the group that have to ask themselves some difficult questions over the coming year.

The peer group has changed somewhat since last time around, with Hogan Lovells and SNR Denton, as a result of transatlantic mergers, moving to the newly created Major International group.

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Major International – Wedding Bells

Major International – Wedding Bells

In comes a new peer group to the Legal Business 100. Thanks to a flurry of transatlantic marriages over the past 18 months, it is no longer appropriate to sit the likes of DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose, SNR Denton and Squire Sanders Hammonds in their old peer groups.

Take DLA Piper. Historically the firm has never been judged on the basis of its global business in the LB100 because the firm operates a Swiss verein structure with two separate profit pools and, up until now, it probably wasn’t appropriate to do so. Of this group DLA was the forerunner in terms of US ambition when it moved into the market, pulling off a three-way deal with Chicago firm Piper Rudnick and Californian firm Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich in 2005.

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