The most persistent assumptions around the law’s new world are rooted in a depressingly monoglot belief that Anglo-Saxon firms will be the only beneficiaries of the globalised market. Clearly, their heft and reach put them in pole position to win work from multinational clients.
Look at the European experience, runs the argument. In France, Germany and the Netherlands UK and US firms are displacing local independents. In France, the old-school power networks of the grandes écoles are on the wane. In Russia, as our survey this week shows, only three local practices - Pepeliaev, Egorov and Goltsblat - make it into the Russian in-house lawyers’ top 10. And Goltsblat is now with BLP (see page 20).
But while the Bric economies have global firms crawling all over them, India shows no realistic sign of liberalising, and I give the top Chinese firms a decade to catch up with the Brits and Yanks when it comes to organisation and profitability.
The assumption that Anglo-Saxon firms will rule the roost seems increasingly short-sighted. With investment flows increasingly between emerging nations and not necessarily always via the traditional hubs of London and New York, emerging markets’ dynamics are more multilateral.
Back in Europe, the bible of the Continental legal market, The Lawyer European 100, is published today. It shows that while Germany and France generate more in revenues from local practices, it’s Spanish firms that are the real success story, despite the troubled Iberian economy. The concentration of firepower of three firms in Spain sets them apart; whereas Clifford Chance and Freshfields have stellar Spanish businesses, they have not displaced Cuatrecasas, Garrigues or Urìa Menéndez.
Indeed, at E322.2m, Garrigues is the largest Continental firm by some margin, with Cuatrecasas fourth and Urìa eighth. And, of course, just as the Anglo-Saxon firms have their old empire ties, so do the Spanish; the export opportunities to South America are enormous. There are more competitors nestling within the pages of The European 100 than you might think.