‘AI has not significantly changed the day-to-day operations of law firms. The emphasis is on staying alert and staying informed about ongoing developments.’ Didier Martin, Bredin Prat
As part of our annual Euro Elite report, management at independent firms in Europe give their views on today’s market challenges
Continue reading “The Last Word: Euro vision”
Our annual Euro Elite survey finds the 100 leading firms across more than 40 jurisdictions still in a strong position, despite a potentially bleak outlook for 2023.
According to the European Central Bank, economic growth slowed considerably in the third quarter of 2022, as strong effects from the post-pandemic reopening and easing supply chain disruptions were tempered by lower consumer confidence and high inflation. This high inflation, uncertainty and weak consumer and business confidence is predicted to slow economic growth from 3.4% in 2022 to 0.5% in 2023. But, as energy markets rebalance, supply bottlenecks resolve and foreign demand strengthens, growth is expected to recover to 1.9% in 2024 and 1.8% in 2025. Continue reading “Overview – Elite Level: annual Euro Elite report finds the continent’s leading independents still in a bullish mood”
‘The future is Pan-Baltic!’ says Vilius Bernatonis, managing partner of TGS Baltic’s Lithuania branch. He is referring to the integration goals of Baltic states’ major firms, which aim to ensure that legal expertise from a firm’s office in one Baltic nation will be readily available to its client in another. But his words have a broader resonance. Though distinct, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania co-operate at nearly every economic level, investing in the infrastructure, energy and technology of one another to foster shared growth and development. They do so because in numbers there is strength. In numbers, there is safety.
Looking at the structure of the Baltic legal market in general terms, at the top is the pan-Baltic bracket comprising Ellex, TGS Baltic, Cobalt and Sorainen, all of which offer full-service, cross-border practices covering all areas of law in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. According to Liga Merwin, managing partner at Ellex [Latvia], ‘the pan-Baltic firms remain largely unchallenged’. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: Baltics – Covering all bases”
In last year’s overview, we predicted full steam ahead for the Benelux market – a reflection of the buoyant sentiments swirling in the region as Europe emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. But the road turned out to be rockier than expected as the outbreak of the largest land war in Europe combined with the after-effects of the pandemic to send inflation soaring and rupture supply chains.
Nonetheless, there were times throughout 2022 when dealmaking thrived across the Benelux region. Hans Witteveen, managing partner in Stibbe’s Amsterdam office, observed ‘a remarkable level of activity, certainly involving large-cap deals’. However, this didn’t last. As the year progressed, the foreboding economic climate dashed hopes of a continued M&A surge. This tapered growth was felt strongly in capital market hotspots, including the Netherlands, as financings struggled to gain a foothold in the face of increasing inflation and reactive interest rate hikes. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: Benelux – Hitting the buffers”
Across the CEE region, uncertainty was the watchword throughout 2022, and the pattern looks set to continue. Although independent firms remain well placed to make the most of booming practice areas, the ongoing conflict in the region, coupled with the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, has resulted in a volatile market.
In the Czech Republic, exorbitant oil and gas prices have hit businesses hard, and, although this did not cause an immediate drop in regular financing transactions, state and EU intervention is anticipated in 2023. Despite the strong start to 2022 and hopes of post-pandemic recovery across the board, the macro-economic challenges in the second half of the year have left a much emptier pipeline for law firms, with many major stakeholders waiting to see what unfolds. The domestic real estate market, meanwhile, is seeing stagnation following the overheating of real estate prices in the last few years, while current inflation means there are cumbersome restrictions on mortgages. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: CEE – Looking ahead”
Activity levels bounced back in France in 2021 after the initial impact of the pandemic and this recovery continued apace in 2022.
‘2022 was the best year,’ says Henri Savoie, who heads the public law and regulatory practice at Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier. ‘2023 will be more normal,’ he warns, pointing out that ‘companies will be active, but they will be cautious. It is a trend.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: France – Pretty good year”
The German legal market has again proven its ability to thrive in the face of challenge, as law firms continued their trajectory of growth in 2022. With the largest firms reporting a 7% increase in profit after a tumultuous year, German independents are demonstrating renewed confidence in their own resilience.
After the uncertainty of Covid-19 brought major moves to a halt, the legal market is finding itself back in motion, with spin-offs and mergers becoming a more regular occurrence, though major consolidations have failed to materialise in 2022. However, many firms report difficulties in finding junior lawyers to join their ranks across practice areas. Paired with shifting client expectations that demand a more holistic approach and, as Gleiss Lutz co-managing partners Michael Arnold and Alexander Schwarz put it, ‘a demand for more integrated services rendered by law firms to clients’, firms face an increased need to demonstrate adaptability. ‘This need will also change the search profile for law firm staff in the future. In addition to traditional lawyers, the need for new professional fields is growing strongly. Summarised in one expression: “the future-ready lawyer”,’ says Elisabeth Lepique, one of the managing partners at Luther. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: Germany – The centre holds”
The past three years have been nothing but challenging for Portugal and Spain. The neighbours, whose economies are hugely reliant on the hospitality and tourism sectors, were hit hard by the series of lockdowns imposed to battle soaring rates of Covid-19 infection in 2020. But fast forward to 2023, and the outlook has shifted significantly.
Emerging from what could understatedly be described as a turbulent period in 2020, with a 10.8% economic downturn, the Spanish legal sector has successfully regained its footing and competitive outlook. While the pandemic made economic constriction inevitable, it has also heralded an opportunity for significant year-on-year growth. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: Iberia – Back on track”
While Ireland’s competitive legal market has enjoyed a buoyant period post-Covid, fresh challenges have emerged to challenge this optimism. Ireland has not been insulated from the overheated recruitment market and is as alive as global peers to reversals wrought by the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine and a slowing of deals as concerns over interest rates and inflation continue to gather pace.
However, Declan Black, Mason Hayes & Curran’s managing partner, predicts high single-digit revenue growth for the 2022 calendar year, even as it comes on the back of a 2021 banner year for much of the Irish market at large. ‘Corporate transactions are down from the 2021 peak and that has spread through the western world,’ he says. ‘Valuations have tumbled amid concerns over interest rates and inflation. Deals have slowed down.’ That said, he points to real estate, financial services, contentious, regulatory and data regulatory as areas of sustained growth. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2023: Ireland – Slight return”