Stars in the darkness

These are curious days of light and shade.

It’s never been tougher to make a buck, yet a bunch of firms (think Mishcon, Olswang, even SNR Denton) are posting profit increases that seem to be from another era. Some even manage to do the light and shade trick all by themselves. Last week Addleshaw Goddard unveiled a 30 per cent increase in total profit and a 37 per cent rise in average profit, taking PEP from £328,000 to £450,000. At the same time it announced it was looking to make 24 fee-earners redundant. Cue outraged comments on TheLawyer.com.

Addleshaws’ managing partner Paul Devitt blamed a lack of natural attrition for the cuts. Translation: there’s not enough work to keep all the firm’s more senior lawyers busy. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if PEP could get back up to a more competitive level.

The harsh reality for senior lawyers is that they’re expensive and, as they get more senior, they get more expensive.

That’s the shade part of that equation. The light is that with a bit of luck – or, more accurately, nous on the part of the individual – those same senior fee-earners should have made themselves pretty marketable by the time they become surplus to requirements. Sadly, the lack of jobs elsewhere brings us right back to the shadows.

Another harsh reality is that Addleshaws’ job cuts will not be the last – the consolidation that is rampant across most sectors of the market is testament to that. And that merger activity is set to continue this week, with Herbert Smith carrying forward its knee-jerk, post-alliance international strategy by, presumably, securing a deal with Australian firm Freehills on Thursday.

By then The Lawyer will have done its bit to inject a little light into the gloom. For tomorrow night at the Grosvenor in Park Lane it is again time for The Lawyer Awards. This week’s feature on the leading in-housers is an indication of just some of the 1,300 lawyers who’ll be letting their hair down (if they have any) at the year’s most glittering bash.

Tax lawyers take note – the host is Jason Manford. Jimmy Carr was otherwise engaged.