The great entertainers

With thousands of companies from all over the world taking exhibition stands or sending delegates to MIPIM, the pressure mounts each year to come up with ways of catching the attention of potential clients.

Few can rival the City of London and the London Docklands Development Corporation, which teamed up a couple of years ago to borrow a passing British Navy frigate. For the duration of MIPIM, they ferried people they wanted to impress from the convention to the harbour to munch canapes and quaff champagne afloat.

Lawyers cannot match this level of corporate hospitality, but they are getting a reputation for entertainment. “We take entertaining clients deadly seriously,” says Lovell White Durrant's Michael Stancombe.

Because the exhibition hall at Cannes is underground, delegates will jump at an excuse to escape it and sample the delights of the south of France. Companies that can provide food and drink on a boat are particularly appreciated. Both Lovells and McKenna & Co have obliged in the past. “Boats are a good vehicle for entertaining – people get fed up with the oppressive atmosphere in the bunker,” Stancombe says.

McKenna's cocktail party afloat was so successful last year, it is repeating it this year in preference to taking an exhibition stand. “The feedback last time was very positive,” says Nick Hadley at McKenna.

It is difficult to gatecrash a party on a boat. Invitations are controlled and lawyers invite most guests in advance, knowing the enticement of water will guarantee a good acceptance rate. “We have already had 95 per cent acceptance for this year,” Hadley reports.

But there are not many boats for hire and they must be booked up to six months ahead, so most lawyers host lavish lunches and dinners and throw drinks parties on their stands. Many of their important clients are short of time in the normal work environment. But they will happily sit over a relaxed lunch at an outdoor beach restaurant or a sumptuous evening meal for several hours.

Much thought also goes into drinks parties on corporate stands. For the second year, Freshfields is teaming up with Scottish Widows for its drinks sessions: “We found out last year that kilts are quite a draw.”

And the champagne will be flowing out of special corporate-labelled bottles at the Baileys Shaw & Gillett stand. Delegates can get a bottle for themselves if they win a “legal fizz kids” competition.

None of this comes cheap, but few lawyers seem able to put a price on such hospitality.When asked how much entertaining for four days costs, one lawyer admitted: “To be honest, I haven't got a clue.”

For UK-based firms which take a stand, the DTI offers a 50 per cent grant, up to a certain size limit for the stand. But if previous years are anything to go by, this will be a drop in the ocean compared with the cash lawyers spend at MIPIM.