Grapevine

Dorsey turns the big guns on Europe
Dorsey & Whitney’s central management team is sending one of its heavyweight corporate partners to London from its Minneapolis HQ.

The chair of Dorsey’s European practice Jim Pedersen is set to fly into London in May or June. It would seem an obvious move for the firm’s European head to be based in its one remaining European office, but as recently as December Pedersen’s response to the suggestion was: “You’d better not tell my wife that.”

Well, let’s hope Mrs Pedersen has been informed and is now convinced that London isn’t that bad. The move could be interpreted as a show of support for London or an almighty kick up the backside. Perhaps it’s both.

Pedersen’s appearance may even see Dorsey reignite its long-promised German and French ambitions. But don’t hold your breath. Following recent revelations, we’ve been told that Dorsey remains an international firm – just not too international.

Size isn’t everything at the bar
If anyone needed confirmation that life at the bar is not all about plump felines gorging themselves on the public purse, then an advert in a national newspaper last week surely provided it. “Established common law set with 40 members practising in civil, criminal and family law seeks merger to take advantage of economies of scale,” it pleaded.

Sounds a little bit desperate, and a merger may not even achieve the desired result. Chambers can operate as volume businesses, but economies of scale do not automatically result from simply stacking them high. Take Hardwicke Building. It was once the largest set in the country but found the model unsuccessful and has now split into independent civil and criminal sets.

St Philips in Birmingham is another that has eschewed size for the sake of strategy. In fact, merging with a comparable set (let’s be honest, the ad isn’t going to have the elite champing at their bits, except perhaps to cherry pick any stars) is more likely to have a negative impact on chambers contributions if a merger simply adds even more hungry mouths to feed.

Taxing times at DLA Piper
The world of tax is a strange and baffling place indeed and not unlike the world of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. With the merger just one month old and a shiny, new global board sub-committee busying itself with integration, it would appear the one sticking point is the creation of a merged profit pool.

DLA Piper sources say partners were told ahead of the merger vote that, until the threat of double tax was gone, the US and UK arms would retain separate profit centres.

“As soon as we can sort out the tax treatment of the profit pool, we’ll integrate,” one partner said. But strangely, double tax in the US seems not to be a problem for the other major transatlantic tie-ups, namely Clifford Chance and Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw. So why the terrifying tax talk?

One City partner said: “People switch off as soon as anybody starts talking tax. It’s the best way to bamboozle them.” So it seems that, on tax as with many other issues, DLA Piper’s partners are best just lying back and thinking of Nigel Knowles. Scary stuff.