Internal document hints at long-term malaise; Landwell on the hunt for City merger
European partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)-tied law firm Landwell are losing confidence in its London office over fears that it is holding back the legal network. A confidential strategy document seen by The Lawyer admits that "several Landwell lawyers from other countries have indicated their frustration that Landwell is not bigger in London. At least in part, this is because they expect greater referrals from us than we have been able to provide, given our current size." Landwell has also failed to fulfil other key goals set out in the document. The firm faces a further threat to its credibility, because its lawyers are uncertain about PwC's backing in the light of Enron. The strategy document from last year states: "Our goal over the next nine months is to become recognised as the best big five-sponsored law firm in London." However, Landwell UK's managing partner Chris Arnheim admitted to The Lawyer last week: "Certainly in terms of public perception we're not there, although we are moving forward." Sources close to Landwell Global told The Lawyer that London is still viewed as the poor relation. The office has neither grown significantly in size, nor taken on high-profile lateral hires since last October. Arnheim conceded: "If you look at most Continental practices, work flows from the UK to the Continent, not the other way around. There is pressure on us to grow." Unlike rivals KLegal, Landwell has failed to attract a UK merger. The document states: "We are unlikely to merge with a large firm in the short term - leading City firms are looking for a significant US link that we are, as yet, unable to provide. However, if we were able to merge with a quality niche firm that would strengthen our business, we would be keen to do so." The paper indicated that, as a next step, Landwell would "develop a US desk and work to persuade PwC US of the benefits of alliances with US law firms." Arnheim claims that PwC has renewed its support for the legal arm post-Enron, but there are concerns within Landwell UK about the future. In the US, PwC has just sold its restructuring arm. In the UK, a source close to PwC Consulting said that the spin-off was entirely due to Enron and moves towards a tougher regulatory regime. A recent Landwell departee said: "I don't know what the future holds for the firm and it wasn't a particularly happy organisation."