You can put it down to the British attitude towards conspicuous success if you like, but there's always been something about Olswang that irritates the hell out of the rest of the legal market.
Maybe it's that ad agency look. But with profits static and some fee-earners mysteriously disappearing, the gilt is rubbing off. What's more, as reported in The Lawyer (25 June), trainee recruitment has been cut. The Olswang management would say: "It's smart decision-making." We say: "Naïve, more like." After all, those law firms which slashed trainee places in the last recession paid for it when the recovery came. The upshot of all of this is that all around the City you can hear lawyers gleefully predicting Olswang's imminent demise. Of course, this is just wishful thinking. Just compare Olswang with Bird & Bird. According to this year's The Lawyer 100 enclosed with this issue, Bird & Bird and Olswang are now almost neck and neck in the turnover stakes, at £48.6m and £47m respectively. And profits are considerably higher at Olswang - £525,000 compared with Bird & Bird's £402,000. Oddly enough, Bird & Bird, for all its impressive reinvention, has never been sexy; most of the market persists in seeing it as a sort of Bristows with silver trousers. But which is the more credible offering going forward? On current form it's actually Bird & Bird, which has a super French practice and is seriously committed to a pan-European vision. Olswang, on the other hand, is essentially domestic; you rarely hear a partner there talking about the firm's international strategy. Olswang has had a great 10 years. Love him or loathe him, Olswang's teenage impresario Jonathan Goldstein is a force of nature. But it's been an easy enough job to manage the hottest firm on the block; leaner times will bring a test of the firm's mettle. Never forget that this is a law firm built on lateral hires. Once the pace falters, how do you keep people loyal? There will be a lot of people out there watching closely.