Europe in Union

The ravages of the global recession and the European sovereign debt crisis have threatened to turn the long boom law firms have enjoyed into a painful bust. But Europe’s resilient full-service firms are weathering the storm, and many are finding that economic turmoil is bringing opportunities as well as challenges.

In law’s long boom years, it seemed to many that the bumper revenues and profits from an ever-rising tide of transactions would last forever; there was always another wave of deals to be done. But since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the global financial crisis, law firms that once thrived on a seemingly insatiable demand for everything M&A have faced the painful realisation that this lucrative era is over.

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Leverage starts to resurface in dormant market

Liberty Global’s $23.3bn acquisition of Virgin Media and Dell’s proposed $24.4bn leveraged buyout have deal finance advisers asking whether this is a signal that leveraged buyout deals are making a comeback.

The pair of mega deals were announced last month within weeks of each other and have handed roles to a raft of advisers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Virgin Media turned to New York firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson for M&A advice, with senior counsel Arthur Fleischer Jr on the US corporate side and London corporate partner Richard May on the UK aspects.
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Jon Alexander – Lloyds Banking Group

Jon Alexander

Head of legal, lending support, commercial banking

Lloyds Banking Group


As head of legal at one of Britain’s ‘big four’ banks, Jon Alexander at Lloyds Banking Group already enjoys a high profile within banking circles, but he has been particularly sought after during the past few months. As one banking partner recently put it: ‘He is one of the most powerful in-house lawyers as he is a decisive influence on the numerous “pass-through panels” of Lloyds Banking Group, which will be decided on over the next few months.’

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Emma Slatter – Deutsche Bank

Emma Slatter

General counsel for UK and western Europe

Deutsche Bank


Although Emma Slatter was only appointed GC for UK and Western Europe in May 2010, one banking partner describes her as spearheading a ‘leading in-house team that is at the forefront of innovative transactional support, regulatory-driven initiatives and external counsel management’.

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David Greenwald – Goldman Sachs

David Greenwald

Deputy general counsel and international general counsel

Goldman Sachs


‘In-house counsel are now acting more and more as critical advisers to the businesses that they cover,’ says David Greenwald, who has been deeply involved in helping his bank recover from the credit crunch. ‘They understand the business itself, the law applicable to it, the company’s culture and hot buttons so they can provide comprehensive advice.’

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Free at Last – Enyo Law

Three litigation partners left Addleshaw Goddard last year to set up a conflicts-free, disputes-only boutique. LB finds out how well the model is working.

For many, it’s a depressingly familiar scenario. You’re an experienced litigation partner handling financial services and contentious civil fraud disputes, advising corporates, entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals. A senior in-house lawyer from a bank asks you to represent them against another major financial institution after being given your name by a partner from a rival firm. A conflict check then reveals a banking partner at your firm had dinner with the other side and anticipates some corporate work in the pipeline. You have no choice but to decline the instruction.

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Under review

Over the past decade panels have defined the relationship between law firms and the major banks. But as the nature of those relationships shifts, panels are becoming even more important

Mark Harding insists there’s been a shift of power. ‘Previously, with a lot of work, the boot was always on the law firm foot,’ Barclays’ general counsel asserts. ‘Now the boot is on the other foot.’ Coming from one of the most senior GCs in the City, head of a 900-strong in-house team with a legal spend of £100m, it’s something to take note of. Continue reading “Under review”