This time last year the Russian market was feeling the squeeze. Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters were among the firms that suffered, with both being forced to cut back on staff numbers. The redundancies followed the closure in September of the Moscow office of US firm Mayer Brown & Platt, which was blamed on the Russian economic crisis.
At the time Calvin Walker, the head of A&O’s Moscow practice, assured The Lawyer that there would be no further layoffs. “It’s really just a trimming. No further cuts are planned,” he said. And he was right. Today Walker is happy to report on progress. “I’m glad to say we consolidated and stabilised very well over the last year,” he says. “We’ve just hired two Russian lawyers and we’ve seen quite a pickup in business.”
NY firm Cahills to open London office
Top tier New York practice Cahill Gordon & Reindell were planning to open an office in London to service the likes of Morgan Stanley, Bankers Trust (as was) and DLJ – mostly on securities work and, in particular, high-yield offerings. Cahills finally launched their UK operation in April this year. This slow pace is perhaps not surprising given that the firm has resisted any international expansion since the opening of its Paris office in 1935. Senior Partner at the London office James Robinson is happy with the performance so far. “We’ve had very positive feedback since the launch. We’re clearly here now, and I think we will continue to develop successfully,” he says. It is operating at this time with only four qualified lawyers, so observers are waiting to see how successful it can be in the increasingly competitive recruitment market.
SJ Berwin seeks French merger
Last October The Lawyer revealed that SJ Berwin was in preliminary merger talks with two-partner firm Cabinet Bersay in its search for a partner in France. The firm had also opened lines of communication with five other Paris firms, and hoped to be able to announce a link-up within six months.
However, the firm has yet to finalise any link-up. SJ Berwin senior partner David Harrel says: “We’re still looking in Paris. We’re reasonably advanced in our negotiations.” At the time Harrel commented that he would not be surprised if the firm opened in Milan and Copenhagen before Paris – but there has been little news of that either yet.