Field Fisher’s cunning plan

Field Fisher Waterhouse had this planned, of course.

It would scrap its senior partner position, revamp its leadership structure after a lengthy consitutional review, get rid of the salaried partner ranks and open in Palo Alto, all to make it a modern City firm with serious TMT capability ready for a cushy merger.

Then they would enter into tie-up talks with LG, and break these off. Then Osborne Clarke would come calling, only to be the second firm in a matter of months to turn FFW down.

In the meantime, between the LG and Osborne Clarke talks, managing partner Matthew Lohn would go on extended sick leave, with Michael Chissick, the man he beat in a leadership election, taking on the role on an interim basis.

Then one of its biggest revenue earners, IP and IT head Mark Abell, would resign to join Bird & Bird and be suspended from the partnership. The next step would see Abell brand the firm’s leaders “ambushers” and claim to be the “highest-qualified lawyer” in the franchising market and that he had “outgrown” FFW.

Then, in a masterful and impeccably choreographed U-turn, the firm would bring back the senior partner role and hand it to the returning Lohn, while Chissick would become permanent managing partner.

Abell, who divides opinion internally, supposedly controls roughly £15m in revenue, so this isn’t over: expect more FFW lawyers to join him at Bird & Bird, and possibly a little bit more contention between him and his ex-firm. And possibly another go at a merger.

The chain of events was all foreseen when the management embarked on a constitutional revamp nearly two years ago.

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Also on today’s new-look TheLawyer.com:

  • US firm McDermott Will & Emery doubled its lateral hiring rate to 54 partner recruits in 2012
  • LG’s LLP accounts show its drawings exceeded profits in 2011/12, while its property bill stands at £5.1m for the year
  • A Squire Sanders property litigation partner is to set up his own boutique, claiming he can do the same work for clients at half the price
  • Pinsent Masons’ highest-paid partner received £531,645 in 2011/12, down from £558,797 in 2010/11
  • We crunch the numbers for Watson Farley & Williams
  • And Star Alliance general counsel Jeffrey Goh talks to us about the increased respect earned by in-house legal teams