The Leader Column

The financial results for the year 2001-02 are trickling through more slowly than usual and it doesn't take a genius to work out that this is because management is worried about the market response.
Very few firms will want to shout about their figures, but surely they can take consolation in the fact that everyone is in the same boat. The Lawyer has revealed figures for Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that suggest the reality is better than the predicted doom and gloom. Reportedly, A&O's profits have only just dipped below last year's, while Clifford Chance's are understood to be down 6 per cent and Freshfields down around 9 per cent.
A&O and Clifford Chance have large finance practices to offset the slump in M&A, so it is all credit to Freshfields that it has kept up with its magic circle rivals. Slaughter and May's figures remain a mystery until someone makes them up, while getting hold of the results from Linklaters involves heavy negotiation.
This week, Simmons & Simmons took the plunge, releasing figures showing that, while turnover only just missed target with an increase of 5.5 per cent on last year, its profits are down by nearly 9 per cent. Managing partner David Dickinson may confirm the figures, but will not discuss them in any detail. Apparently, all offices and all practice areas “did very well”. What profits would have been like had they done badly, one can only wonder.
Despite being tipped as having had a good year on the back of its litigation practice, Herbert Smith released figures that revealed an 8 per cent drop in profits. Don't rely on market speculation.
To date, only a few firms have raised their profits: CMS Cameron McKenna is up 6 per cent and Clyde & Co is up 6.6 per cent. No need to wrestle information from DLA, though; a special invitation to a press conference saw Nigel Knowles announce a 16 per cent hike.
But come on, where are the rest of the results? Ashurst Morris Crisp claims that the hour of truth is in the dim and distant future; Norton Rose is cunningly biding its time; while Lovells, true to form, is keeping shtoom.
Why doesn't everyone admit that it has been a bad year, release the results and move on? Already we are in the second month of the new financial year and apparently things are picking up. There's no shame in telling the truth.