15 November 2012
Having popped over to Cannes for this year’s MAPIC real estate conference, Nicky Richmond finds a slightly different scene to the one on offer at lawyer-fest MIPIM
I’d guess that there are about 300 or so UK-based organisations at MAPIC this year. Out of that lot, 10 law firms. Out of that lot, Blake Lapthorn wins the prize for most legal delegates from the UK, with the grand total of three.
Of course, it is entirely possible that serried ranks of lawyers have turned up to the event without actually registering; there will be some, but not on the scale of MIPIM. That event is now so full of lawyers, I’ve started to view it as a recruitment opportunity.
But here, other than hanging about at seafront cafés, going into the ambitiously named Palais des Festivals (a glorified bunker) and gatecrashing agents’ cocktail parties, there aren’t that many other networking opportunities. Caffé Roma isn’t rammed with bankers and lenders of all hues. You can get a seat in the bar of the Majestic.
You could of course be one of those lawyers (mostly foreign and earnest, in my experience) who pack their diaries with meetings from dawn till dusk, to feel like they are getting their money’s worth, or perhaps to justify the trip to their management boards, scared of those seemingly endless gaps in their diaries and consequently often just meeting other lawyers in other jurisdictions, with a vague hope of getting work.
Not that you shouldn’t do some of that. I’ve done it myself. In fact, even today I am meeting a Pole, at his request, in the hotel “looby”. And no, I am not in an episode of ‘Allo Allo, as was suggested on Twitter.
And in working out whether it is worth the not insignificant investment in both time and money, you have to ask yourself why you might want to attend.
Because some of your clients are here? This is not as daft as it sounds. On the face of it, why would you bother to go all the way to France to see a client you could see at home? Well, some of them are multinationals and will have their colleagues with them, giving you an opportunity to meet new people in the organisation and broaden your connections.
Also, you might, like I did yesterday, get three hours of face time in front of a client, who is notoriously difficult to pin down in London, and get to listen to him talk about his strategy for the coming year and have a frank discussion about the where we might improve our service.
And clients often invite you to functions that you may not otherwise be able to get into. A senior agent was complaining to me yesterday that he had dozens of lawyers bending his ear to get into his firm’s party last night. As he said, he had no desire to invite lawyers, from whom he mostly gets zero return, when he had limited numbers. You can see his point.
Because other lawyers are here? This isn’t so important here, where the event isn’t actually over-lawyered. There was a time when it was felt to be vital to go to these events, to protect your client from the rapacious clutches of your competitors. I’m not sure that argument has legs. Quite frankly your clients are already being bombarded by your competitors never mind all the new players in the market. While it’s good to be visible at industry events, it’s more important to focus on providing the sort of service they aren’t going to want to give up.
Because you might pick up a new client? Well, you might, but don’t bank on it. You will, however, unless you are really not trying, widen your own personal network of contacts. Obviously you need to sort out the wheat from the chaff and work out who is worth following up when you get back to the office. And you never know who might turn out to be important. We had our biggest instruction ever through a contact made at MAPIC. We met them here, then in New York and ended up introducing an opportunity to them
So, is it worth it? Probably not, unless you have some real presence in retail, either on the development side or through acting for tenants. Because this is a retail conference and not many firms really do that much of it. Many of the big retailers have in-house lawyers and the UK presence here is becoming less and less important. In this year’s MAPIC Guide, the UK has 12 pages, Russia 14, Italy 20 and France, the home nation, has 35. And here it’s mainly about luxury brands.
And the chance of you having a conversation with a potential client coming into the UK, who isn’t already represented, or whose lawyer can’t service their needs, or who is just waiting to hear what you have to offer them is probably quite a slim one. But then again…
Nicky Richmond is managing partner of Brecher