Refocus or regret

This year sees a substantial increase in the number of partners appointed by the top City firms and reflects a bullishness not felt for some years by the top tier of the profession.

The upturn in business, seen as large numbers of companies restructure, is clearly good news for the major firms which are the main beneficiaries.

But we must not forget the second-tier firms, many of whom are facing something of a crisis and few of whom have experienced the same level of growth as those at the top.

The problem for many of these firms is that they have found themselves squeezed out of certain sectors as clients demand more and more specialisation. Also, many fell victim to the boom of the 1980s when they dramatically expanded and were sometimes less choosy in appointing partners than perhaps they should have been.

There is no doubt that the days of the generalist second tier law firm are numbered and the sooner these firms get to grips with this reality, the more likely they are to respond positively.

They will have to refocus their business dramatically and some will have to accept that shrinkage is sometimes an equally good solution to problems as growth.

It will take an imaginative, proactive and indeed brave firm to come up with solutions to deal with the problems in hand and to change the structure of the firm to deal with the ever-changing needs of clients.