9 June 1999
Excerpt from The Lawyer's review of the top 100 law firms
The legal market is like the premier league. At the top are a handful of firms chasing international glory. In the middle, firms just happy to consolidate. At the bottom, firms you think will go under every year, only to see them pull through in the last day of the financial season with an away draw v Slaughters in the Court of Appeal. And then there's The Firm. The Newcastle United of law. A once proud outfit, then suddenly a laughing stock. It's been a torrid year, with profits incredibly plunging from u500,000 per partner to an average of just u67,965.43 per partner. For the first time in living memory there have been defections, with one partner jokingly telling The Lawyer: "I've escaped at last. Please don't tell Mr Henderson you've tracked me down." Clients report that another partner at The Firm has simply vanished. The Firm's international strategy is in tatters. After presciently opening a Kosovo office, senior partner Jack Pratchard pulled the plug last month when he found out there had been a war. The national expansion, launched in Hull with the slogan "Hull today, Whitby tomorrow, the whole of Humberside the day after," has stalled. What's going on?
Excerpt from the newly-published Chambers Legal Directory 1999/2000
...The Firm (partners: 85, maybe 84 as one seems to have disappeared) has slipped in the rankings this year. Once "the leading firm" and "highly regarded" in many areas, The Firm's corporate department is now ranked as "totally rubbish", while the property group is "highly shite". Even the prized quarrying team slips from the top spot to: "Well, we'll use them if we have to." Clients seem strangely reluctant to talk about The Firm. One top in-house lawyer at a FTSE 100 corporation, who wants to be known only as Joe, said: "Mr Henderson has people everywhere. How do I know you're not one of his?" He then jumped from the first-floor window of the restaurant. But, bizarrely, internal research conducted by The Firm was included in their 1999/2000 submission. Senior partner Jack Pratchard is considered "cretinous - a man so stupid he must have been born with Alzheimers". Managing partner Tom Henderson is described as "well dodgy. If the police ever got hold of his files he'd do more porridge than Goldilocks." All other partners are referred to as "cattle", except new corporate partner Alison Brett, who is thought to be "well tasty". Although The Firm is in dire straits, at least we applaud it for its full and frank co-operation in the compilation of this directory...
Memo from Tom Henderson to all partners
Many of you have voiced concern at a recent spate of bad publicity surrounding The Firm. I can explain. We like to keep meticulous records at The Firm, financial and personal, in a red folder for internal use. I also keep slightly different records in a blue folder - for the tax man - and I keep completely fabricated and inflated records in a green folder - for the press. It would appear that, entirely accidentally, Chalmers sent out the wrong folder this year. While it is true that Chalmers made a simple mistake, it is also true that Chalmers has gone missing. If you need to contact him, wave at the foundations of the bridge by junction 12 on the M25. But don't panic. We're fighting back by discrediting the press itself. Please find enclosed Henderson's Directory of Legal Directories. It's a guide telling FTSE companies which directory to use when they want to pick a law firm. "Chambers Directory: A load of old cobblers." "Legal 500: I wouldn't wipe my dog's arse with it." And the editorial reads: "Don't believe anything the press say. Just instruct The Firm if you know what's good for you..."