The Lawyer 100 is out this week. Modestly, we’re certain it’s the biggest and best in-depth coverage of legal market financials there’s ever been. The 140-page financial must-read has all the scope needed to cover this year’s top 100 firms, the US players, the chasing pack and the key sectors that are driving the market (corporate, property, litigation and finance).
So what’s missing? This year there’s no technology, media and telecoms (TMT)-specific coverage. Partly this is because of the dearth of activity in this market. Partly, though, it’s because these days it’s becoming almost impossible to find a dyed-in-the-wool TMT-focused firm, at least among the top 100.
Take Olswang. It is now – wait for it – a telecoms, media, technology and property firm, following its hire of five property partners and 10 other property lawyers from DJ Freeman. Its shift of emphasis is now creeping out at the bottom of its latest press releases. Our shock on seeing this for the first time was considerable – it took several minutes for the giggling to stop. The firm’s figures, though, with profits 16 per cent up to 290,000 GBP, are also giving Olswang’s partners something to laugh about. They show the firm’s canniness in ditching its longstanding niche as the sole breadwinner.
Taylor Wessing is another prime example of a TMT juggernaut that has just executed a handbrake turn. No firm, not even Olswang, trumpeted its TMT credentials quite so loudly as Taylor Wessing. It cornered the market in the US West Coast techie inbound market and cannily grabbed – or to be fair, generated – every opportunity to link its name to the latest fad or trend that the boom threw up. Now it’s a finance and projects practice. Or at least, that’s the firm’s best-performing group this year (up 22 per cent). Tech and IT in particular – a group that saw several partner departures recently – is notable by its absence from the big billers list.
Osborne Clarke famously went lateral crazy for a few years off the back of the boom. No prizes for guessing that it, too, is changing emphasis. It has waved goodbye to 25 partners since 1 January 2002, most coming from London’s corporate and technology teams. And its major new clients: BG, London Underground and Costain. Very funky.
Which brings us to Bird & Bird. The firm’s continuingly falling profits (down 12 per cent to 317,000 GBP) reflect the drop off the cliff in the TMT market as well as anything else. Blame it on international expansion maybe, but perhaps TwoBirds should also be looking to write something at the bottom of its press releases.