As the UK economy continues to teeter on the verge of an almost certain slowdown, the main preoccupation on law firms’ minds is how to mitigate such an eventuality.
The constant flow of transactions that were the bread and butter of most City firms for the bulk of 2007 has to some extent dried up, meaning firms are going to have to work harder than ever to source the work that drives their profits.
This can only mean one thing: tougher times lie ahead and in order to succeed firms are going to have diversify their business plans.
Stuart Popham, senior partner at the UK’s largest firm Clifford Chance, told Lawyer2B.com that, while there will still be fairly strong flows of work in the coming months, firms are going to going to have to work harder to source it rather than waiting for clients to come to them. This means being prepared to travel beyond the confines of the UK if necessary.
The idea of sourcing work on an international scale is also being followed by the smaller firms working in the City with the likes of Herbert Smith, SJ Berwin and Travers Smith all focusing on very specific markets to drive their fortunes in 2008.
Travers managing partner Chris Carroll said: “We’ll spend 2008 travelling more than we have been. We want to develop our legal network beyond Western Europe and the States to Eastern Europe and Russia.”
SJ Berwin senior partner Jonathan Blake has also earmarked locations such as France, Germany, the Nordic region and the Middle East as centres for growth. “China, Russia and the Middle East will become increasingly important to us,” he said.
Others, such as Allen & Overy (A&O), DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose also noted the importance of Russia. A&O corporate partner Allan Paul said: “Infrastructure will be significant – maybe not in the UK, but certainly in Russia and places like that.”
Freshfields senior partner Guy Morton agreed. “We’ll invest further in emerging markets such as Russia and the Middle East,” he said, “and keep a close eye on developments in India.”
So while the state of the UK economy continues to grab the lion’s share of headlines, in the legal community at least everybody is talking about assaulting new markets with the Middle East and Far East most definitely emerging as flavours of the month.