Silver or brass?

SJ Berwin’s financial results tell the tale of an entire section of the legal market (see story).

For along with BLP, Ashurst, Travers Smith and Macfarlanes, SJ Berwin is part of what was identified by The Lawyer back in 2005 as the silver circle – a group of firms with largely UK businesses and with stellar client bases in private equity and real estate. They all prospered in line with the boom and, inevitably, their financial fortunes have seen a marked decline this year (see story).

This has provoked some slightly catty reactions. As one poster on TheLawyer.com says: “The gap in quality between the magic circle and the silver circle is really starting to show.”

Or as another one quips: “I guess SJ Berwin just exited the silver circle for the rubber ring.”

We say: don’t write these firms off too soon. An increasing number of City lawyers are saying the worst of the recession may be over, with many reckoning on a comeback by 2010.

That said, if any acquisitive firm is looking to make some big hires, then silver circle partners will be pretty attractive.

And at the moment, pretty cheap.

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Also on TheLawyer.com: cleaning up nuclear waste with Roger; the blue skies of Greece; and the Law Society’s new plan to discourage students from pursuing a legal career.