Mipim 2006: yachts, shots and Nabarros sunglasses

From yachts to restaurants, the UK’s law firms are making themselves seen at Mipim.


10.00 Tuesday morning: It’s breakfast but Freshfields aren’t up yet

From yachts to restaurants, the UK’s law firms are making themselves seen at Mipim.

Lovells and Norton Rose both have 60ft yachts which are moored right next to each other, while Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are sporting 120ft monsters.

But has Freshfields already missed the boat? At 10am this morning its boat, The Natori, was moored without a banner in sight.

Even construction boutique Winward Fearon had its branding all over its yacht, The Bay View, before Freshfields stirred.

16.20 Tuesday afternoon: Clarke Willmott entertains at the races, and Norton Rose gets catty about Lovells

There is a longstanding myth at Mipim that more booze is drunk during this week in Cannes than in the rest of the entire year combined.

By 2pm, Bristol firm Clarke Willmott was making sure it was at a quick gallop.

With official Mipim accreditation at £1,000 a pop, Clarke Willmott has taken a novel approach, securing an Irish pub for a rip-roaring afternoon party.

Meanwhile, there is little love lost between Norton Rose and Lovells.

“I think their gaudy balloons and purple carpet really show what the firm is about,” said a Norton Rose partner from the dignified surrounds of his stateroom-like yacht cabin. Besides, as has since been pointed out to me, the Norton Rose yacht is a good 10ft longer than the one Lovells is aboard. A saucer of milk to Norton Rose, please.

10.30 Wednesday: The morning after the night before

Judging from the number of people at the Martinez bar at 4.30am, pacing yourself really doesn’t seem to be the done thing.

Helping me prop up the bar was SJ Berwin head of real estate Bryan Pickup. Pickup is a much smoother negotiator than he’s ever been given credit for: he managed to wrangle a beer out of not one, but two journos.

Meanwhile, Lovells partners were delighted to overhear the crew from Norton Rose’s yacht lamenting the clean-up job they were forced to do after less than half of the expected guests turned up yesterday.

The Lovells party was spurred on by property boss Bob Kidby, but he had help when David Taylor crashed it with his DLA Piper minions.

I made it up in time this morning to meet Mark Wheelhouse and his Freshfields colleagues aboard The Natori. Mark and his colleagues Graham Prentice and Alexander Watt were kind enough not to use any big words.

16.00 Wednesday afternoon: Lawyers get busy, Dave rehydrates
SJ Berwin’s lunch was great, if a little bit disjointed. Half the party, including yours truly, were about-faced and sent up the road to a hotel. The restaurant booked didn’t have enough space to cater for them all. Still, I think I’m better off for having been out of the sun and taking the opportunity to rehydrate.

With the impending Budget next Wednesday [22 March], there’s a rush for property clients to close their deals. Lovells’ Nicholas Cheffings has barely been without BlackBerry in one hand, mobile in the other and a file open in front of him.

11.07 Thursday morning: BLP gets kitsch with tribal drummers

I have a confession to make. Yesterday morning, after my first night of Mipim madness, I was a little worse for wear, but I was hoping the Freshfields team wouldn’t know. I was wrong. As they told me in the Martinez in the wee hours of this morning.

I also hung out with Denton Wilde Sapte partner Paul Hayward-Surry, Nabarro Nathanson’s James George and Latham & Watkins lawyer Charles White. They were all doing very, very important networking, of course.

Anyway, last night’s Martinez warm-up was Berwin Leighton Paisner‘s (BLP) party at the uber-chic (or is that kitsch?) Hotel 3.14, with psychedelic interior decorations, including glitter-effect toilet seats.

BLP’s party last year at a Moroccan night club was famous for its belly dancers. They were replaced this year by African tribal drummers.

I’ve been collecting more bitchy comments about yachts. These have included: “That boat is just a low-rent, mushroom-brown camper van.” And: “If I was a client and saw them lounging on the back of a yacht like that, I’d slap them.”

15.00 Thursday afternoon: Dentons, Olswang and Nabarros square up for grand finale
What do you get when you have 21,000 men from the property industry descend on a city for a week? Well, you sure get a lot of call girls coming to town.

Overheard at a lunch for a West End property boutique firm today: “I wonder if it’s cheaper to hire the girls just to drive me back to Nice than it is to get a cab?”

Friday morning: Dave’s tired; he needs those Nabarros sunglasses

Six hours of sleep in 72 hours, my own bodyweight drunk in alcohol, a stack of lawyers’ business cards that would have to be checked in separately were I flying home today… These are a few of my favourite things.

Since the last blog I’ve shared a pint with Herbert Smith’s Chris de Pury, who had been living the life of Riley on one of the massive yachts moored offshore, with lobster and champagne on demand.

I joined the Denton Wilde Sapte party at the Hotel Majestic and hung out with planning partner Stephen Webb before crashing the Moroccan-themed Olswang party on the beach near the Carlton, where Julien Allen was lobbying for me to join the Olswang cricket team.

Nabarro Nathanson had its big themed party on the beach. Each partner’s business card came with a caricature. Complete the whole set and you win a prize – a pair of firm-branded sunglasses.

After finding the same Freshfields crew from the night before propping up the Martinez bar again, I decided that it was time for a change of scenery.

So it’s the end of the ride. And it’s a day on the train to finally catch up on some sleep before arriving back in London this evening. And a St Paddy’s day party…

This is an edited version of The Lawyer’s Mipim blog, trailed all last week on the website. To read the full, unexpurgated version, log on to www.thelawyer.com/mipim2006