Stuck in the middle

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  • A couple of points about Trowers.

    There was no Arab Spring in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia so that excuse for poor performance doesn't fly.

    The Saudi retreat has nothing to do with losing the last associate. The rumour was that the Exco of Trowers met in March 2011 and voted to close the Saudi office. Two of the 3 lawyers on the ground were made "redundant" on the spot and one was left hanging. The local partner was given notice a month or two later terminating the relationship. It was an intentional move to leave Saudi Arabia and if there is any integrity in the management of that firm they should confirm it.

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  • When I think of the firms 'that got left behind' I think of Dickinson Dees.
    Their partners haven't embraced change well. Therefore they've slid from around 25th in 1995 to nearly 60th in 2012.
    I wonder if any of the firms mentioned will now change their strategy? I doubt it.

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  • All of these firms will ultimately become part of much larger combinations. They should get their act together whilst they can still do mergers of choice.

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  • 2.29pm - I have to disagree.

    Many of these Dodo firms will die. A small minority will get merged into more dynamic firms.

    In the end, they all get forgotten.

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  • A merger between LG and Nabarro would make perfect sense; their combined AIM, general corporate and property practices would readily challenge the likes of BLP etc.

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  • The problem that these firms have is not that they are generalist, but that they are sub-scale and have no international platform (and lack the resources to build one).
    Mergers don't just make sense, they are inevitable and one wonders what they are waiting for.
    @ Anonymous 3:29 pm - law firms seldom actually go out of business in the sense of bankruptcy or complete break-up, they are far more likely to suffer a drip-drip decline through defections, loss of clients, a decline in relative profitability and scale, and then rescue mergers/take over by another firm.
    Mergers of choice before this negative spiral begins are a quite different prospect however.

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  • There's nothing inevitable about merging. When the push required to lift PEP from £450k pa by 20-30% is considerably more than 20-30% more sweat and effort why should it? And while PEP's dropping by 5-10% pa the sense of urgency is missing. What is noticeable is that those who bet the shop on catching up with the big firms are suffering post 09. There's a massive gap between top 5 and top 50, but that doesn't mean the future for the top 150 is all about international expansion.

    The issue is Not consolidation - it's buyer power. Most if not all of these medium tier firms could restore their PEP levels if they stopped wasting time and money on partner pet projects. Trying to be A&O lite is a nonsense, but there are alternatives.

    If you think the profession is going the same way as Accountants etc - you're wrong - dangerously so. The real issue is much more subtle and much more destructive than some illusory search for scale for scale's sake.

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  • I remember applying to join LG and Dickinson Dees in 1999. Thank heavens I didn't join either.

    These are firms that won't last. Stale management representing below average lawyers. Even if what Maule is proposing is going to save LG, by now there will be an ingrained culture of coasting.

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  • I think this article is unnecessarily harsh on LG; profits are broadly comparable with similar firms (think Nabarro and the like for firms which have a similar spread of departments). The firm also makes broadly the same revenue as it did 3/4 years ago, despite having nearly 20% less staff. Hence, it looks like a tightly run (if conservative) ship.

    The firm's international strategy leaves much to be desired however, I think they feel a lot more at home undertaking overseas work from London (their India desk for example).

    For the record, I'm not on LG's payroll.

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  • I think the safely safely approach is responsible and has kept partners in jobs for life. Many of the firms that have risen in recent years have shed their old school partners.
    I regard the six law firms listed to each be superior to Dickinson Dees. Therefore its safe to conclude Dickinson Dees are now lower league. After all, if they were a football club they would be Leyton Orient.

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  • In 10 years' time the legal market will be radically more concentrated - and globalised - and all of these firms are likely to have been involved in multiple mergers by then.

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  • I love that Leyton Orient remark.
    I hear John Sitton is still driving a cab in London. Perhaps if the firms in question could hire him to be their CEO he would have them sorted out in a trice - and they could bring their lunch as well.

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  • What a load of rubbish.
    Good firms earning by any normal persons standards good profits - the partners most probably dont want to be in dead weights in US owned firms.
    The firms will survive as they provide a good personal service - that show they got into the top 100.
    Its the fashionable churn and burn firms that wont last as beyond greed they really have nothing to offer.
    Turnover is an irrelevance - its a profit dirven business.

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  • Trowers is in terminal decline. Their London base is not viable given its dependence on low-grade housing work, hence the outsourcing to Birmingham (next stop: Calcutta).
    The Dubai office is also crumbling due to its lack of specialism. Why would clients go there? For ageing drinking partners?

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  • Size isn't everything and merger may only serve to fracture and confuse. However the mid tier should still be able to prosper as their business model is different. The 'Big Boys' cost model may well frustrate moves into mid tier client work as many cannot do this without significant discounting. If anything the well structured/managed mid tier practice should be able compete very successfully and obtain panel appointments from major clients. They may not have the full range of skills but given the way panels operate today that is no barrier. When there is a clear £100 - £200 per hour pricing advantage the work flow could well reverse.

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  • Why doesnt anybody think strategies for reducing debt are important or worth discussing

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  • I dislike Dickinson Dees as much as anyone in Newcastle, but the numbers of its middle ranks who vent on here is a joke.
    Is there not one single person amongst the many disaffected solicitors there who is talented and confident enough to break away? If those at the top (the real talent, not bed-wetting yes-men who make up most of the partnership) were in the shoes of those perennial whingers, at least one of them would resign and start a firm of their own. That is why those at the top are those at the top and those who are whingers will either never make it to the top, or, with some luck, might become the next generation of bed-wetting partners they complain about now.

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  • Actually I'm pleased to see colleagues at Dickinson Dees venting on these pages. It's good to know I'm not alone in thinking something is going very wrong with my firm.
    Maybe it would be more courageous to leave. However I've nearly been here 10 years so would prefer to stay and see the nasty, selfish freeloaders who have damaged us be pushed out of the firm.

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  • Anon 2:03pm,
    They're called Directors. They have less say in running the firm than the janitor and they have shown how little ambition they have by accepting a role that formalises their inability to make partner. Of course they won't leave, they're not the type..

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  • A quick straw poll, how many of these firms will have been involved in mergers in 12 months.
    I reckon all of them. Prudence is a long term strategy. The acquisitive firms like that.

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