Women deal stars: plenty to celebrate so ditch the understatement

Women deal stars: plenty to celebrate so ditch the understatement

In a blow for traditionalists, our latest cover feature eschews profiling a group of hard-working, smart, highly-confident men who are talented lawyers to instead profile a group of hard-working, smart, variably-confident women who are talented lawyers. Radical stuff.

But then the career cycle for too many ambitious female deal lawyers remains nasty, brutish and short. While women increasingly advance into senior roles in advisory practice areas and even more so among the ranks of senior general counsel, in the upper reaches of transactional law, it is still a boys’ club and anyone claiming differently does not know many corporate lawyers. Continue reading “Women deal stars: plenty to celebrate so ditch the understatement”

Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?

Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?

Well, 2017 promised to be a challenging year and it did not disappoint with its disappointment. With the Brexit vote upsetting an already-delicate balance in key markets, an inconclusive general election in the summer managed to ramp up the uncertainty further.

Overall, deal activity was solid throughout the year but no more, beyond a continued boom in private equity and leveraged finance work. The long term regulatory squeeze on the banking and securities industries continues, with even once apparently unstoppable shops like Goldman Sachs struggling to live up to their reputation. It is hard for partners of my vintage to get their head around the notion that the major banks are not as central clients as they used to be and will likely become less so in future. But they should get over it. Continue reading “Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?”

The Legal Services Act ten years on – still waiting for the Big Bang

The Legal Services Act ten years on – still waiting for the Big Bang

As this issue hits desks, it will be ten years since the Legal Services Act gained Royal Assent, ushering in the most liberal services market in the world by some margin. Given that span of time, and the five years since the most radical elements of the act came into force with the regime for alternative business structures (ABS), it is natural to ask if it has lived up to billing.

There clearly was an impact of sorts, supporting an environment where new business models and fresh thinking were encouraged. That renewed the legal ambitions of the accountants, encouraged the pioneering UK launch of Slater and Gordon, and made Co-op as close as we have got to Tesco law. After a slow initial start there are now over 700 licensed ABSs in England and Wales, representing a significant chunk of the market. Also significant is the messy regulatory fallout and ongoing turf war that it triggered, which has continued with varying degrees of intensity ever since. Continue reading “The Legal Services Act ten years on – still waiting for the Big Bang”

Bangs and whimpers – LB100 performance is a lot weaker than it looks

Bangs and whimpers – LB100 performance is a lot weaker than it looks

In the wake of the banking crisis, some commentators claimed the legal industry was set for a bloodbath that would sweep away 10,000 solicitors’ jobs from a flabby trade. As so often, the profession defied the critics, handling its post-Lehman reboot with assurance. Now, after posting on the face of it impressive numbers for 2016/17 in the shadow of Brexit and two major electoral upsets, there is talk of the resilience of the industry. The Legal Business 100 (LB100) has, after all, grown from £12.25bn to £22.06bn over the last decade and this year the group at long last surpassed its record PEP of £703,000 set way back in 2008.

And yet scratch the surface and there is much cause for unease. A good chunk of the long-term growth of the UK’s largest firms is due to consolidation, while the 2016/17 results have been hugely flattered by currency movements. Taken as one year, the numbers are respectable, but the long-term view is ominous, particularly for the City’s traditional leaders. Continue reading “Bangs and whimpers – LB100 performance is a lot weaker than it looks”

Bangs and whimpers – LB100 performance is a lot weaker than it looks

Bangs and whimpers – LB100 performance is a lot weaker than it looks

In the wake of the banking crisis, some commentators claimed the legal industry was set for a bloodbath that would sweep away 10,000 solicitors’ jobs from a flabby trade. As so often, the profession defied the critics, handling its post-Lehman reboot with assurance. Now, after posting on the face of it impressive numbers for 2016/17 in the shadow of Brexit and two major electoral upsets, there is talk of the resilience of the industry. The Legal Business 100 (LB100) has, after all, grown from £12.25bn to £22.06bn over the last decade and this year the group at long last surpassed its record PEP of £703,000 set way back in 2008.

And yet scratch the surface and there is much cause for unease. A good chunk of the long-term growth of the UK’s largest firms is due to consolidation, while the 2016/17 results have been hugely flattered by currency movements. Taken as one year, the numbers are respectable, but the long-term view is ominous, particularly for the City’s traditional leaders. Continue reading “Bangs and whimpers – LB100 performance is a lot weaker than it looks”

Hogan Lovells was right to get hitched. It needs to remember that.

Hogan Lovells was right to get hitched. It needs to remember that.

I’m not a big fan of comparing law firm mergers to marriages. All those torturous metaphors and incongruous imagery. But in assessing the three-year old union between Lovells and Hogan & Hartson, it’s hard to escape the nuptial motif. The deal was forged amid high expectations and a simple analysis: both firms were better off together as neither looked compellingly positioned for an emerging elite of global law. Putting together a transatlantic merger of equals with two large firms that ranked just below the top tier in their respective markets made sense and was arguably a first for the profession.

But, as we address this month, the problem with raising expectations is that you’ve then got to meet them. And on that yardstick the firm has faltered. Three years in Hogan Lovells is still struggling for growth, the gap between its profitability and other global 20 peers remains too wide and the break-through in transactional work is elusive.

Continue reading “Hogan Lovells was right to get hitched. It needs to remember that.”

Converging in on an end game for Global London

Converging in on an end game for Global London

Remember convergence? In the 1990s’ tech boom the concept was all the rage. It was the simple idea that rapidly-advancing communications would see once-discrete platforms and information systems like TV, the printed word and telephones merge and dynamically share data in an economically seismic fashion.

What happened next says a lot about human nature, business and the whimsy of prediction. The internet bubble burst and such utopian visions were suddenly crazy. One received wisdom replaced another. Except convergence was one of the most accurate forecasts ever made about industry – it just took technology another three years to catch up with the hype. The fundamentals prevailed.

Continue reading “Converging in on an end game for Global London”