15 January 2007
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Dewey-Orrick merger scrapped
The New Year kicked off with news that the merger that would have created one of the world's largest law firms was off.
The collapse of Dewey Ballantine's and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe's talks at least removed the need for Orrick London managing partner Martin Bartlam and Dewey London managing partner Fred Gander to come to blows over who would be top dog in terms of London management.
Any warmth that may have existed during the talks between the two firms' respective London heads appeared to have evaporated rather quickly. Orrick's Bartlam said his office had "always been fairly neutral to the merger".
He added: "While it would have provided us with a bigger platform, which would have been a good thing, it would probably have been the only thing."
For his part, Dewey's Gander countered that his office could "finally focus on client work". And forget about worrying who was going to head up London, presumably.
On a purely domestic basis, the final weeks of 2006 saw the merger of Ricksons and DWF (The Lawyer, 11 December). The deal may be smaller than Dewey's and Orrick's, but it immediately raised similar headaches for the firms' management.
A string of partners had jumped ship from Dewey in the run-up to the deadline for its proposed marriage with Orrick. Similarly, it was not long before the combined UK firm of Ricksons and DWF suffered its first casualty. On 8 January The Lawyer reported that Fiona Dillon, formerly head of private client at Ricksons, was leaving the firm to join Pannone.
"I left Ricksons purely as a result of its merger," said Dillon. "While I think the merger will be good for Ricksons, I didn't think that the merger will be good for the type of clients that I deal with."
DWF and Ricksons, both northern firms, merged on 1 January, creating a £51m-turnover outfit known as DWF.
Camerons, Paul Hastings embark on growth drives
The past few weeks have seen a clutch of firms outline their strategies for growth. In some cases the new era was immediately apparent.
On 11 December Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker chairman Seth Zachary outlined ambitious plans to grow the firm's London office significantly. Zachary said the capital would be Paul Hastings' "primary growth focus" over the next few years and that it would look to turn London into the firm's second-largest office.
That would require 400 per cent growth on its current 37 lawyers. But the New Year got off to a flying start when Paul Hastings snared Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) projects partner Jonathan Simpson. Simpson had been on a crusade to build his team at BLP, targeting his native Australia in particular for assistant recruits. He is unlikely to slacken his pace now that he has rejoined a US firm (Simpson was previously at Dewey Ballantine).
CMS Cameron McKenna was another firm to target major growth after managing partner Dick Tyler revealed the conclusions of a firmwide strategic review (The Lawyer, 18 December 2006). High on the to-do list was the aim of reaching a turnover of £250m within three years.
"There's no particular magic about any particular number," said Tyler. "But from an internal perspective a rallying point is needed."
At Field Fisher Waterhouse the rallying point was also financial, but a little more personal. A two-day partnership retreat called to examine growth prospects at the City firm looks to have produced its first-ever associate bonus scheme. "It's almost inevitable," said the firm's managing partner Moira Gilmour.
As with Camerons, the firm also discussed turnover targets, with £75m by 2008 in its sights.
SJ Berwin brings in magic circle associate pay rate
Associate remuneration was also on the management agenda at SJ Berwin as Christmas loomed. On 11 December The Lawyer revealed that the firm's management, led by senior partner Jonathan Blake, had met with its associates to tell them their salaries were to be increased to match magic circle rates.
The increase in pay, which will not take place until the new financial year, followed public criticism of SJ Berwin's new associate bonus structure (www.thelawyer.com, 2 November), which saw it offer increased bonuses of up to 60 per cent of salary for utilisation and a new 12.5 per cent bonus for non-chargeable contributions.
Rio Tinto, Tyco opt for central legal functions
The New Year also heralded a number of significant managerial changes in the in-house sector. FTSE100 mining company Rio Tinto implemented a wholesale review of its legal function, resulting in a centralised approach and a new role of global general counsel.
According to UK legal adviser Charles Lawton, the changes will give Rio Tinto's legal function "more visibility to, and interaction with, senior management".
Also heading down the centralising path was engineering conglomerate Tyco. In a radical deal, the company has taken a leaf out of DuPont's book and instructed a single firm for all of its Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea) needs in place of its former 175-200 firms (The Lawyer, 8 January). As with DuPont, the firm is Eversheds, and in both cases the relationship partner is Paul Smith.
Tyco Emea general counsel Trevor Faure initiated the move after joining the company from Dell late in 2004. Faure wrote to all of Tyco's external firms towards the end of last year, culminating in the DuPont-style reshuffle in January.