a year ago this week

SJ Berwin sparks salary war

SJ Berwin sparked a salary war by increasing newly-qualified lawyer salaries to £42,000 from the £33,000 industry standard. As documented in The Lawyer, several have followed suit, including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Norton Rose. Later, KLegal raised salaries to £45,000.

US firms i

n London offering New York rates and greater in-house opportunities made it much more difficult for City firms to attract and retain the best assistants.

SJ Berwin is reviewing its salaries for the coming year. A spokesman says SJ Berwin will continue to pay "the best for the best" and that the firm will not go backwards and would want to do something similar with salaries this year.

Bird & Bird's merger with Orricks shelved

Merger talks between Bird & Bird and US firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe were abandoned when both encountered partnership objections.

Bird & Bird partners were split on whether the union would benefit their firm, with intellectual property partners voting against. Orricks' London office resisted Bird & Bird's executive chairman David Kerr's plans to cut Orricks' projects practice.

Bird & Bird has this year opened offices in Paris and Stockholm. Its Swedish presence was achieved by its merger with Gedda & Ekdahl (now under the Bird & Bird name).

In between, Orricks has lost the founder of its London office Tamara Box to Tite & Lewis (see below).

Departing Landwell pair aim to take 20 lawyers

Tite & Lewis, Ernst & Young's associate law firm, was launched by Christopher Tite and Mark Lewis on leaving Landwell last year with 20 of Landwell's lawyers.

They set up Cooper & Lybrand's associate firm (originally named after themselves). When the accountants merged with Price Waterhouse in 1998, Tite & Lewis was forced to merge with Price Waterhouse's Arnheim & Co. Arnheim Tite changed its name to Landwell in October 1999.

After strained relations with Chris Arnheim, Tite and Lewis left to set up a firm for Ernst & Young. Arnheim took control of Landwell, which now employs 70 lawyers, including six recently appointed partners, and is now able to resource deals such as the management buyout of Center Parcs.

Tite & Lewis has recently made three lateral partner hires, including Orricks' Tamara Box for structured finance and securitisation, LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae's Paul Flood and Norton Rose international securities partner Charles Rose.