Web week 07/08/06

The Lawyer‘s Web Week is a weekly commentary on legal activity on the web. This includes an overview of the best of the week’s blogs. If you want to direct us to useful links, email webweek@ thelawyer. com.

Divorced from reality

Lloyd’s of London insurance market star John Charman, the eighth-wealthiest man in the City of London according to familylawinternational.blogspot.com, was the star of the web this week after being ordered to pay his former wife £48m, which is believed to be the largest divorce settlement yet.

The website concluded: “Generous settlements by judges are turning England into the destination of choice for multimillion-pound divorce cases. Divorce lawyers confirmed the prevalence of ‘forum shopping’, choosing the country in which to obtain the most lucrative alimony.”

Internet-biz.blogspot.com didn’t really join in the general enthusiasm for prenups. Its verdict: “Worth being aware of, but not necessarily acting on.”

The Charman case also led Webweek to the questionable delights of www.wifesgone.com. In addition to some rather depressing stats (did you know that divorce rates in the UK have hit a new peak of 167,116?), the site offers a useful link to the Law Society’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ page and handy hints if you need to “find a home”, or just “need a break”.

Are EU up to the challenge?

The prolific IPKat.com notes something completely unrelated to IP, but possibly of interest to all you lawyers looking to express your creative side. “The EU is running a competition for young designers and art students. The challenge is to design a logo for the EU’s 50th birthday. The happy day is 27 March 2007, but entries must be in by 30 September 2006. The IPKat says good luck.”

And so does Webweek.

What a tangled web we weave

The Lawyer’s scoop last Monday about Allen & Overy‘s (A&O) merger approach to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also sparked a great deal of web activity. The Times’ (timesonline.typepad.com/law_ weblog) Edward Fennell mused at length on the subject. “The stories that are circulating about tentative merger discussions between Allen & Overy and Freshfields earlier this year are so amazing that I imagine they must be true,” he wrote.

Indeed.

Fennell continued: “They also bring a distinct whiff of what happened back in the days of the ‘Big Eight’ accountants, when it seemed that the world had settled comfortably into a landscape dominated by Coopers & Lybrand, Price Waterhouse, Arthur Young, Peat Marwick McClintock, Arthur Andersen and so on. The idea that the first two of these would merge seemed unthinkable. Then it happened. And a merger to create an ‘Ernst & Young’? Surely not. Oops, there it goes!”
Fennell’s analysis was more amusing and more insightful than his offline counterpart, who embarrassingly merged the unrelated news of the retiring Freshfields 30 with the merger story. The Times was forced not only to print a letter from Freshfields senior partner Guy Morton explaining that the two stories were not linked, but also to print an apology for getting A&O’s figures wrong. Oops!
The media coverage inspired Morton and his counterpart at A&O Guy Beringer to send firmwide emails denying that the lunchtime approach had developed into “merger discussions”.

One anonymous A&O associate, going by the name of Heath Cliffe (geddit?), became so upset with the attention the firm was getting that he/she emailed The Lawyer to say: “Oh yes, and whatever you would like to think, A&O is still by far the nicest place to work in the magic circle. For those of us who work there, that counts for everything.”

Which is nice. Obviously a partner in the making – if not one already.