Tue, 21 May 2013
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A&O looks to restructuring work to keep banking team ticking over
I am a non-lawyer banking professional and part of a team with a legal spend on banking work in excess of GBP20,000,000 per annum. A&O's banking practice has one peerless quality which others lack and which they must safeguard above all else - quality. They have the largest and deepest roster of smart, well-trained high quality banking lawyers in London and probably the world (although their quality outside London is seriously dodgy - this is something they need to get objective feedback on).
This is the legacy of legends such as Philip Wood and Jonathan Horsfall Turner. Against that, they have many demerits - (i) they are much too big and amorphous, (ii) they have lost their sense of identity, (iii) they are perceived as grey, humourless and faceless, (iv) there does not appear to be much/any quality control outside London, and (v) the combination of the disdainful attitude towards borrowers and sponsors of some (very few) members of the B3/leveraged finance team and the very similar mindset of some members of the ex-Norton Rose leveraged finance team means that a small number of people have poisoned the well for everyone with the result that they are perceived generally (and by sponsors/borrowers in particular) as being uncommercial, onco-oerative and very expensive.
It is a real struggle to persuade our clients that we should be allowed to instruct A&O. Eventually, this just becomes too tiring and we go elsewhere (CC, Links being the most obvious altenative choices). They could/should take a leaf out of Linklaters' book - focus on building up the profile and identity of a small group of client/media-friendly partners who actually make the effort to grasp the hand that feeeds them (rather than biting it a la A&O).
A&O have a fantastic legacy and a great reputation for banking work but now is the time for radical thinking and a complete re-invention of their model.
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