Comment: Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Comment: Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Towards the end of 2019, Legal Business remarked that the issue at the heart of Allen & Overy (A&O)’s looming leadership election was if the process would resolve whether the winners could achieve the right to genuinely lead the City giant. Now that the election has concluded, with the re-election of Wim Dejonghe (pictured) as senior partner and the elevation of projects and energy head Gareth Price as managing partner in place of Andrew Ballheimer, it is far from clear that the point has been settled.

That is not a criticism of the calibre of the candidates and winners. Generally regarded as the best managed of the Magic Circle’s four internationalists, A&O certainly attracted a line-up of heavyweight candidates, by no means a given in law firm leadership run-offs. This was most obvious in the contest between Dejonghe and banking co-head Philip Bowden for senior partner and Price and litigation head Karen Seward for the managing partner brief. Continue reading “Comment: Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?”

Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Towards the end of 2019, Legal Business remarked that the issue at the heart of Allen & Overy (A&O)’s looming leadership election was if the process would resolve whether the winners could achieve the right to genuinely lead the City giant. Now that the election has concluded, with the re-election of Wim Dejonghe (pictured) as senior partner and the elevation of projects and energy head Gareth Price as managing partner in place of Andrew Ballheimer, it is far from clear that the point has been settled.

That is not a criticism of the calibre of the candidates and winners. Generally regarded as the best managed of the Magic Circle’s four internationalists, A&O certainly attracted a line-up of heavyweight candidates, by no means a given in law firm leadership run-offs. This was most obvious in the contest between Dejonghe and banking co-head Philip Bowden for senior partner and Price and litigation head Karen Seward for the managing partner brief. Continue reading “Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?”

Comment: The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

Comment: The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

Astute readers will note that our cover feature on 2020 forecasts spends as much time casting its eye back on the 2010s as looking ahead. Assessments based on observable trends support conclusions that better stand the test of time, but such introspection has lent a jaded tone to the resulting piece. How could it not? The 2010s was a decade that began with bold claims and expectations for the legal industry, yet from the perspective of the elite UK firms, it consistently disappointed. And it is one aspect that perhaps explains much of the wider malaise: the increasingly stark problems with leadership and governance at large London-born law firms.

Back when I first started covering the legal industry, the authority of senior management at top London firms was absolute, or at least appeared so from the outside. Occasionally an imperious managing partner overreached, but in the main London firms, which had until recently been much smaller firms built with close social bonds, allowed small groups of individuals to push through rapid shifts in strategy in the 1990s and 2000s. Continue reading “Comment: The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership”

The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

Astute readers will note that our cover feature on 2020 forecasts spends as much time casting its eye back on the 2010s as looking ahead. Assessments based on observable trends support conclusions that better stand the test of time, but such introspection has lent a jaded tone to the resulting piece. How could it not? The 2010s was a decade that began with bold claims and expectations for the legal industry, yet from the perspective of the elite UK firms, it consistently disappointed. And it is one aspect that perhaps explains much of the wider malaise: the increasingly stark problems with leadership and governance at large London-born law firms.

Back when I first started covering the legal industry, the authority of senior management at top London firms was absolute, or at least appeared so from the outside. Occasionally an imperious managing partner overreached, but in the main London firms, which had until recently been much smaller firms built with close social bonds, allowed small groups of individuals to push through rapid shifts in strategy in the 1990s and 2000s. Continue reading “The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership”

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

If A&O’s new 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 “If A&O’s new team can’t get a mandate, who can?”

Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach

Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach

Late last month we published the first Legal 500 UK guide since I took over as editor. While changing something the size of the UK guide is going to take time (for context we include some 1,300 UK and US firms across more than 10,000 individual rankings) readers will have already noticed some improvements.

The legal industry has never had a reputation for being the fastest-moving sector, and the same criticism has at times been levelled against the analysts that assess the profession. As a research business we always start with the quantitative data and tangible evidence as the basis of our research – this means there will inevitably be some time lag between what we are ranking firms on and what is happening within their practice right now. Continue reading “Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach”

The end of A&O’s marathon O’Melveny merger bid reveals the stark choices facing the Magic Circle

The end of A&O’s marathon O’Melveny merger bid reveals the stark choices facing the Magic Circle

This article sits in the news leader slot of our latest issue, but when considering Allen & Overy (A&O) and its epic courtship of O’Melveny & Myers, the defining factor has been the absence of news. Since it emerged last spring that A&O was in merger talks with the Los Angeles-bred firm, there have been bare scraps of information, alongside alternating whispers the deal was/was not on. Finally the resolution came on 2 September, with the pair announcing the end of the talks with the traditional noises about mutual respect.

The reason for the long delay was as much the scale and ambition of the merger as the inevitable complications of bringing 700 partners on side. The looming spectre of a messy ‘no-deal’ Brexit and fresh falls in sterling further strained a delicate situation, probably tipping it over the edge. Not only were the firms aiming for full financial integration upfront – a move never attempted on the scale of a £2.4bn transatlantic union – the aim was to do an immediate merging of governance, leadership and remuneration. Forget vereins and grace periods kicking tricky issues down the road. That all-in approach raised the stakes and logistic issues enormously. Not least it would have involved substantive reform of A&O’s remuneration structure to make it more compatible with a US firm. Continue reading “The end of A&O’s marathon O’Melveny merger bid reveals the stark choices facing the Magic Circle”

Comment: Global 100 reportcard – US leaders continue decade-long surge as City rivals dither

Comment: Global 100 reportcard – US leaders continue decade-long surge as City rivals dither

Judging the world’s largest law firms, it is becoming a familiar tradition after we unpack the results of the Global 100 to look ahead to a more troubled outlook… which then turns into another year of robust growth.

Take 2019’s results, one of the strongest showings since the banking crisis a decade ago, which have seen the group push revenue up 9% to $113.51bn, while profits per equity partner (PEP) across the 100 increased 7% to an average $1.87m. Over a third of firms saw revenues increase by more than 10%, up from 16 in 2016; just four saw declining turnover. While underlining revenue per lawyer once again barely moved upwards, there are now 19 firms with PEP in excess of $3m, all bar one American, and eight exceeding $4m. Continue reading “Comment: Global 100 reportcard – US leaders continue decade-long surge as City rivals dither”

Global 100 results show US question looming ever more ominously

Global 100 results show US question looming ever more ominously

Judging the world’s largest law firms, it is becoming a familiar tradition after we unpack the results of the Global 100 to look ahead to a more troubled outlook… which then turns into another year of robust growth.

Take 2019’s results, one of the strongest showings since the banking crisis a decade ago, which have seen the group push revenue up 9% to $113.51bn, while profits per equity partner (PEP) across the 100 increased 7% to an average $1.87m. Over a third of firms saw revenues increase by more than 10%, up from 16 in 2016; just four saw declining turnover. While underlining revenue per lawyer once again barely moved upwards, there are now 19 firms with PEP in excess of $3m, all bar one American, and eight exceeding $4m. Continue reading “Global 100 results show US question looming ever more ominously”

Cross-selling to glory will only get the Big Four so far

Cross-selling to glory will only get the Big Four so far

This title is on the record as having doubts regarding the Big Four’s legal ambitions, at least judged against claims typically made by some outside observers. Readers will all know such assertions: that the group are more sophisticated, slicker and tech-savvy than law firms and set to disrupt law on a global scale.

But while the last 25 years has not yet seen them live up to such claims, the Big Four clearly have formidable assets, contacts and brands and have collectively stepped up their investment in the last three years. Continue reading “Cross-selling to glory will only get the Big Four so far”