In the last few days lawyers from all over Europe have been packing sunglasses, golf clubs and large quantities of aspirin and telling their colleagues they’ll be out of the office “on business” for a few days. Yes – it’s Mipim time again.
Whether any ‘business’ gets done is always somewhat questionable, but you can guarantee that over the next couple of nights the infamous Martinez Hotel will be awash with gossip (unfortunately most of it unprintable).
Perhaps the most surprising discovery so far was that EY Law had a stand in the Palais Des Festivals. (For those not familiar with the Mipim format, most law firms shy away from paying the rather exorbitant cost of taking a stand, instead opting to host champagne breakfasts, lunches, dinners and cocktails – well, anything that involves booze really.) Keen to get the lowdown on exactly what was happening with EY Law’s European network, a visit to the stand was obviously in order. But on arrival, no mention of EY Law could be found – not even in the marketing brochure. This was purely an Ernst & Young stand. What’s more, the person manning the desk wasn’t even sure whether there would be any of the lawyers around. The Lawyer left a calling card – but as yet, no one has phoned (although they may not yet be out of bed). Let’s hope it’s not a sign of things to come.
Not that a presence at Mipim necessarily means much anyway. At the Martinez bar, EY Law is currently the bookies’ favourite to be the next DJ Freeman – here one Mipim, gone the next.
To be fair to EY Law, however, there are a number of law firms this year that appear as exhibitors on paper, but are not so in reality. For example (and perhaps slightly confusingly), Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) turned out be the City of Liverpool, while Pinsents was part of the City of London. But my personal favourite was a trip to the Clifford Chance stand, which turned out to be Landeshauptstad Düsseldorf. On inquiring whether anyone from Clifford Chance was available, the man behind the desk replied: “Clifford who? I don’t think he’s here, but you can leave a message for him.” (Sometimes even the largest firm in the world has trouble raising its profile.)
Mind you, it’s not really the size of your stand that matters – it’s the size of your boat. And this year Norton Rose has been returned to top spot on the centre of the Jetee Albert Edouard, after last year being tucked away around the corner.
And competition to get people to your party is as fierce as ever. Paul Hastings opted for the ‘get in early tactic’, with champagne flowing freely at nine o’clock this morning. (And there could be much celebrating in that camp tonight, with news that the French bar is set to approve the Moquet Borde merger anytime now.)
Meanwhile, BLP and Denton Wilde Sapte are just two of the firms going head-to-head with Lovells’ infamous Thursday night bash, with the former parties scheduled to finish just that much later than Lovells in a bid to get the ‘stayers’. And today Wragges’ cocktail party starts at 4.30pm – just a little earlier than Herbert Smith’s – in a bid to get the punters first (which surely had nothing to do with Wragges property head Gerald Bland, a former Herbies partner).
Indeed, there are more lawyers here than ever (especially now that the corporate and finance lawyers have got themselves in on the deal). What’s more, they’re looking a great deal happier; gone are the long faces of last year. And all that means one thing: you can guarantee that, in real estate anyway, most firms’ figures are definitely on the up.
Finally, don’t forget that now is the time to get your entries in for The Lawyer Awards 2004. The deadline for receipt of entries is Friday, 2 April.
For more information, go to http://www.thelawyer.com/lawyerawards. Good luck.