Comment: After their lost decade, the current crisis should see the Magic Circle back on world-beating form

Comment: After their lost decade, the current crisis should see the Magic Circle back on world-beating form

Sometimes a shock looks certain to leave life forever changed only for things to carry on much as normal. Sometimes, the jolt marks a genuine crack in the foundations underpinning industries, business and society. We now know that for the profession and the City, the banking crisis proved very much in the latter camp. In law, the most visible result of this was the end of the startling 25-year success story of the Magic Circle, closing the period in which the group had blazed a trail across the global market and become utterly dominant in their core European and Asian heartlands.

After the banking crisis, growth slowed, ground was ceded to US rivals, and even some mid-tier rivals, and the group lost much of the strategic daring that defined their remarkable ascent. They remained successful institutions but the swagger was gone, the myth of invincibility lost. Continue reading “Comment: After their lost decade, the current crisis should see the Magic Circle back on world-beating form”

The Global 100 debate – Decision time

The Global 100 debate – Decision time

Alex Novarese, Legal Business: Let’s get some observations on how people think their businesses are performing.

Charlie Jacobs, Linklaters: If you look at the last three years, conditions for law firms have been pretty benign. For a lot of our clients, it has been a tough environment, but the law firms have performed well. There are more people competing, yet the top law firms all seem to be performing well. Complexity is good for our business. But most would say it feels a little softer this year. On a global basis, given the various tensions, it feels there are fewer of the big, transformative deals we all love. This year looks slightly more challenging. Continue reading “The Global 100 debate – Decision time”

Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans

Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans

Leading US firms continue to dominate the London recruitment market with significant appointments from the Magic Circle, as Weil, Gotshal & Manges hired Linklaters’ highly-rated M&A partner David Avery-Gee (pictured) shortly after Allen & Overy (A&O) saw corporate pair Simon Toms and George Knighton jump ship to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The hire of Avery-Gee is a coup for Weil, which has struggled against more potent US rivals in recent years in London. The office has had setbacks in corporate, including the loss of London managing partner Mike Francies’ protégé Samantha McGonigle, who left after 13 years to co-found a growth fund in February. Continue reading “Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans”

LB100 Overview: Apocalypse soon?

LB100 Overview: Apocalypse soon?

As Legal Business was unpacking the 2018/19 financial results of the UK’s top 100 law firms, the Office for National Statistics reported that Britain’s economy had shrunk for the first time since 2012. The 0.2% fall in output in the second quarter of 2019 was the latest in a series of ominous signs for a nation that appears, at the time of writing, on course for a cliff-edge exit from the European Union amid a chaotic political landscape and falling currency.

As Legal Business went to press, a row was raging over government moves to prorogue Parliament in the run-up to the 31 October deadline to exit the EU, threatening constitutional wrangles and a no-deal Brexit. A nation famed for exporting democracy, its strong institutions and a stable business environment is looking more Banana Republic than Britannia resurgent by the day. Continue reading “LB100 Overview: Apocalypse soon?”

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”

Prestige, cash and a bit of spin: how to get ahead in trainee recruitment

Prestige, cash and a bit of spin: how to get ahead in trainee recruitment

As the associate pay war rages, Thomas Alan finds major firms are falling back on cultural tropes in the expensive jostle for trainee talent

When Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer announced in May a pay hike for newly-qualified salaries, rising from £85,000 to £100,000 with bonuses on top, new battle lines were drawn in the war for junior talent. Continue reading “Prestige, cash and a bit of spin: how to get ahead in trainee recruitment”

The Global 100: The devil you know – The two visions for Freshfields

The Global 100: The devil you know – The two visions for Freshfields

‘Some of the management are dinosaurs. They don’t understand how important this is.’ So speaks one loyalist Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner of a growing unease shared by some regarding the City giant’s direction.

When Legal Business’ last focus on the 276-year-old institution hit desks in late 2015, the question was how newly-elected senior partner Edward Braham and co-managing partner Chris Pugh would secure the firm’s place in the Global Elite as the challenge from profitable US rivals mounted. Continue reading “The Global 100: The devil you know – The two visions for Freshfields”

Associate pay war, anyone? Freshfields sets new Magic Circle standard by raising NQ pay to £100k

Associate pay war, anyone? Freshfields sets new Magic Circle standard by raising NQ pay to £100k

Marco Cillario assesses the City-wide implications of Freshfields’ decision to dramatically hike associate salaries

A decade after leading the way in resetting downwards the going rate for City associates, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in May set a new standard for Magic Circle firms, raising its newly-qualified (NQ) salaries from £85,000 including bonuses to a symbolic £100,000, with bonuses on top. Continue reading “Associate pay war, anyone? Freshfields sets new Magic Circle standard by raising NQ pay to £100k”

City elite sees sharp increase in partner promotions and improved female promotion prospects

City elite sees sharp increase in partner promotions and improved female promotion prospects

Magic Circle takes a leaf from US playbook after a parsimonious 2018

This time last year, Legal Business was still lamenting that the post-banking crisis clampdown on promoting partners at City firms had showed little sign of lifting, with the Magic Circle in particular promoting at levels insufficient to sustain partnership sizes. Continue reading “City elite sees sharp increase in partner promotions and improved female promotion prospects”

Bench strengths – Sizing up the City’s top dispute teams

Bench strengths – Sizing up the City’s top dispute teams

The best dispute lawyers often have something of the diva or rockstar about them – argumentative, uncompromising and brash. Michael Davison, head of Hogan Lovells’ litigation, arbitration and employment group, describes Neal Katyal, who runs the firm’s Washington DC disputes team, as such a figure. It is easy to see why: at the age of 48, Katyal had argued more Supreme Court cases than anyone else in US history and appeared as himself in Netflix’s political drama House of Cards.

London, of course, has no shortage of big characters in litigation, even if the clubby world of hard-living, hard-working boys is giving way to a more diverse crowd. To assess the prospects for the disputes market, Legal Business decided to focus on a dozen of the largest players in the City, spanning traditional leaders, the largest specialist firms and a handful of the most expansive US outfits. Continue reading “Bench strengths – Sizing up the City’s top dispute teams”