The Leader Column

According to our highly scientific poll of 200 lawyers last week, the year’s champion law firms, in order, are: 1. Allen & Overy; 2. Herbert Smith; 3. Freshfields; 4. Latham & Watkins; and 5. DLA.

It was a nice snapshot of current market perception. Interest-ingly, what all those firms have in common is forward momentum and a management with a strong vision of where they want to be. By the way, Allen & Overy won by a mile, which will no doubt please new managing partner David Morley.

Other firms that have managed to convince the market they’re doing well include Weil Gotshal & Manges (the US practice rather than London) and Clifford Chance, which probably would have done better if Paddinggate hadn’t taken the shine off the year.

And while we’re on the subject of the last 12 months, we’d like to put forward some contenders of our own for the special 2002 comedy awards:

Lovells, for its obsession with its new building. Showing a fabulous grasp of news values, Lovells’ press office seriously suggested we run it as a front page story.

Theodore Goddard, for its spectacular display of paranoia in hiring a bunch of private dicks to find out where the leaks were coming from.

Brobeck, or more particularly the partner who claimed – despite huge evidence to the contrary – that at the firm’s recent US retreat nobody discussed partner departures.

Ashursts, for its dramatic conversion to feminism.

Finers, for confessing it had been “a bit optimistic” about its profits this year.

Stephenson Harwood, for claiming it was about to merge with its Paris ally, but without the Paris ally knowing anything about it.

Eversheds David Gray, for winning the managing partner election but still banging on about the press being on Michael Brown’s side.

Simmons & Simmons managing partner David Dickinson, for his ineffable charm to journalists.

Clifford Chance partners, for not knowing how to work their computers.

But the prize for best comedy value goes to Landwell. We still don’t know what it’s there for. Does PwC?

Happy Christmas.