Morley: A&O will defy the credit crunch

In his first interview since being elected as senior partner of Allen & Overy (A&O), David Morley has predicted that the credit crunch will make the firm stronger.

Bucking the City’s current pessimism, Morley campaigned for the senior partner post on an upbeat platform of sustainable growth in emerging markets, beating corporate partner Richard Cranfield, as first revealed on www.the lawyer.com (27 February).

“We’ll weather any downturn and come out stronger on the other side of it,” Morley told The Lawyer. “Onwards and upwards.

“I’ve been through at least three economic cycles as a partner and I think the most important thing is to approach it with flexibility and a positive attitude and that will create opportunities.

“There are clearly some very large forces at play, like the transfer of economic power from the West to the East, but we’re very well placed because of our strength in Asia and other emerging markets.”

Belgian managing partner and co-head of global corporate Wim Dejonghe also campaigned on the basis of greater international integration in his successful contest for managing partner against capital markets partner Boyan Wells.

“I could play the card of coming from a different background,” he explained, “although integration is already very good. I hope that, being from Belgium, I’ll be in a good position to grow our business here and elsewhere.”

Morley said he believes the importance of emerging markets will only increase, citing the growing influence of sovereign wealth funds. He also placed high hopes on India, where A&O’s referral arrangement with local firm Trilegal (first reported on www.the lawyer.com, 22 February) has put the firm closer to its goal of being “first out of the blocks” in the country. However, Morley is lukewarm about Brazil, which he had previously outlined as a target for growth, but now just sees as a jurisdiction with “long-term potential”.

The team appears to have every reason to be confident. A&O’s half-year results revealed a 16 per cent rise in revenue last November, putting it on track to break the £1bn benchmark for the first time.

“It looks like we’ll have a very successful year,” concluded Morley.