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One good thing about the dire economic situation is that it bestows a Teflon-coated excuse for just about anything that goes wrong - much like a pet or an elderly relative - and law firms have not been slow to blame bad news on faltering markets.
CMS Cameron McKenna was one of the first this year. In mid-January it said it was backing out of its deal with property developer Hammerson over new offices in Principal Place, Shoreditch, with senior partner Dick Tyler attributing the decision to “unstable market conditions”.
DWF and Cobbett were next.
The firms had been in merger talks, but on 31 January issued a joint statement saying that they had decided not to progress any further “due to the current uncertainty in market conditions”.
In the wake of Camerons’ announcement, however, speculation was rife that there was more to the decision than the economy. This was fuelled by reports that the firm was in merger talks with Nabarro, which was also alleged to have been in separate talks to move into Principal Place; but those rumours were categorically denied by senior sources at Nabarro.
And TheLawyer was flooded with incredulous comments following the DWF/Cobbetts story wondering whether financial demands attached to the deal had more to do with the breakdown in talks than the economy.
Of course, in both instances the firms could have been evoking the economy in earnest. Shame it sounds more like the dog eating the homework.