Tulkinghorn: Hung, drawn up and then quartered

News has reached Tulkinghorn Towers that those crazy ABS-phobes north of the border are at it again.

When the Scottish Law Agents Society (SLAS) finally agreed to an amended version of alternative business structures being introduced to the Scottish legal market, those who had always been in favour of them breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Law Society of Scotland had, after all, balloted the profession on the matter, and won its support, two years previously.

After much 11th-hour hand-wringing and several time-consuming referenda, brought about because the SLAS had apparently missed the original ballot, it was finally agreed that Scotland could cope with an ABS world, so long as external investors couldn’t own more than 50 per cent of a law firm’s equity.

Thinking they could finally get on with the day job, our Scottish cousins thanked the Lord that the job was finally done and dusted. Not so, it seems, with the SLAS now tabling a new motion that the 50 per cent limit be dropped to 25 per cent.

They just don’t give up. Tulkinghorn wonders what Scotland’s politicians, who are waiting to enact the country’s Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, make of it all.

Euro paean

Despite years of integration and efforts at international understanding, The Lawyer’s second European Awards revealed how national stereotypes ­manage to persist across the Continent.

Carine Van Regenmortel, managing partner and founder of Belgian firm Altius, espoused a theory of how her fellow compatriots manage to get to the top of international firms: because nobody feels threatened by them. She mentioned, as an example, Allen & Overy’s illustrious global managing partner Wim Dejonghe. And then there’s… er… that one, you know…

Actually, can anyone think of a famous Belgian? Other than Poirot.

Former ambassador to Berlin and Washington DC Sir Christopher Meyer ­compered the event, adding an air of the British establishment. But Macfarlanes senior partner Charles ­Martin already put his vote in for next year’s host, recommending Eurotrash presenter Antoine De Caunes. Perhaps accompanied by a couple of Chihuahuas?

That would certainly add a bit of Gallic ­scandal to the affair. But nothing to compare with the furore that Javier Fernandez-Samaniego of Bird & Bird’s Madrid office kicked off. The managing partner of the firm’s Spanish ­outpost, who incidentally picked up the award for Best Overseas Office, runs his firm’s Latin American relationships. But despite the high levels of Spanish ­investment in Cuba, his passionate beliefs prevent him from doing business there as long as Castro is in power. Instead he works with its smaller neighbour the Dominican Republic.

Tomas Zacha of Konecna & Safar was incredulous. “What?” he piped up. “A lawyer with conviction? Surely not!” To make matters worse Zacha acts for clients who are incensed by the Dominicans producing inferior cigars and passing them off as Cubanos.

A lot of hot air ensued. Tulkinghorn retired to the bar with a Cubano.

Battle plaint

There’s nothing ­Tulkinghorn likes more than a good old-fashioned management election.

Pitting the partners against each other does wonders for highlighting firmwide factionalism.

He will be watching with interest the Anglo-German spat at Clifford Chance, with German corporate partner Daniela Weber-Rey standing against ­London’s Jonathan Elman and Malcolm Sweeting.

If only Herbert Smith and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer had taken a leaf out of their book. Herbies’ managing partner election is about to pass with barely a manifesto pledge being uttered, with the firm ­finding not a solitary soul willing to stand against incumbent David Willis.

And the prospect of ­having Ted Burke-Will Lawes-Stephan Eilers or Will Lawes-Ted Burke-Stephan ­Eilers at the helm at ­Freshfields failed to elicit even one water cooler-based discussion at the magic circle firm.

After no thought and even less debate the firm chose Will Lawes. Tulkinghorn’s old friend Hobson was faced with a similar choice himself once.