Grapevine

UK partners are gearing up for the news of their firms’ half-year results next week. Most are privately expecting a stormer while – publicly – cautiously predicting solid results.

Managing partners are kicking their partners to get bills paid and anxiously waiting for their financial directors to put the decimal points in the right place. But initial indications are that if you haven’t achieved double-digit growth then you really aren’t trying very hard.

Allen & Overy (A&O) managing partner David Morley wouldn’t give us a figure, but confirmed that so far it had been “a good year, a strong first half”.

A&O has had an unexpectedly good time in corporate of late. Building on the back of its work on the £8.1bn Alliance Unichem-Boots merger in the final quarter of last year, it recently scooped the mandate to advise Australian bank Macquarie on its £8bn acquisition of Thames Water.

On the other side of both those A&O deals was Slaughter and May, which also recently advised Unilever on the £1.43bn sale of its frozen foods business. Slaughters’ partners are expecting a revenue boost of at least 15 per cent.

Initial indications from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer suggested that it has had a good first half on the back of its barnstorming corporate team. The £20bn Sanpaolo deal for Italian banking rival Inesta was its latest highlight.

And the mid-market’s doing well too. Simmons & Simmons is ahead of budget after a particularly strong year for its UK transactional teams. Bird & Bird is on target for double-digit growth as it aims to break £100m by the end of the year for the first time.

A spokesman for Herbert Smith, meanwhile, said its figures were “a good picture”, with the firm “on course to at least meet our revenue targets, which were rather challenging”.

According to Herbies, its lawyers’ utilisation rates are as high as they have been for the past five or so years. It’s likely to be a landscape reproduced at most of its competitors.

The indications of how the current year is going come less than a week before confirmation of last year’s performance for the world’s biggest firms. Next Monday (30 October) The Lawyer publishes The Global 100 for 2006.

The table will show that UK firms’ share of the global legal market is bigger than ever before. According to the provisional half-year figures, they’re doing pretty well at home too.

Steve Hoare, news editor