A&O, Shearman to merge?

A&O, Shearman to merge?
03 October 2008
Allen & Overy in talks with Shearman & Sterling?
We’re only asking.
The rumours in New York are beginning to mount.

Allen & Overy in talks with Shearman & Sterling?

We’re only asking.

The rumours in New York are beginning to mount. Shearman sources deny it, though another source close to the firm did admit that “it would make good sense”. Another spluttered: “there is absolutely nothing there.”

In the meantime, we’ve rustled up some excellent evidence.

A&O is occasionally tempted by the thought of a market-busting merger. It approached Freshfields back in 2006, as exclusively revealed in The Lawyer (see story).

Senior partner David Morley is moving to New York next week for three months (see story). This is being taken in New York as proof that a deal is in the offing.

A&O has nicked a whole load of Shearman’s Germans – though by rights this ought to rule out a deal with the rest of the firm.

Shearman needs help. (Actually, this is incontrovertible.)

No wonder half of New York is cheering A&O on from the sidelines. And they say the Brits are gossips.

Go, David, go!

Last orders
02 October 2008

To most people a lock-in is a jolly affair where everyone sits in a pub getting drunk after hours. At Hammonds, by contrast, a lock-in is where everyone sits around in the office doing work after hours because they can’t resign.

But three partners have taken the opportunity to jump ship after the firm’s lock-in for this year expired (see story).

Manchester partner Gregg Davison is off to Pinsent Masons, while Leeds and Birmingham partners Terry Saeedi and Ann Benzimra are still negotiating their terms. (At least now they’ll have time to nip off to the pub and leave when they want to.)

It’s a gloomy story, but the firm does have cause for a bit of cheer. One commentator on our story on TheLawyer.com has already congratulated the firm on how it handled the news after a spokeswoman wished the partners well in the future.

“Well done Hammonds,” they write. “This gives you credibility. Now don’t ruin it.”

And talking of the future, redundancies in the law now stand at 668. With your help, The Lawyer has been closely observing layoffs in the market for the last few weeks.

The stories and analysis have proved so popular with our web readers that today we are launching a special section on the website: LegalJobWatch.

The new web page will cover everything job-related from the real stories behind the redundancies to practical advice on what to do next, and exclusive data from LawyerJobs on where the employment opportunities are.

And as with all stories on TheLawyer.com, you can post your comments – as many readers already have on the lay-offs at Wragges.

If you have a topic you want us to look at, or an opinion you want to get off your chest, you can also email us in confidence at LegalJobWatch@thelawyer.com

The Old Lady’s old boy
01 October 2008

Nobody likes losing good partners, but if you’re going to have one poached by anybody, the Bank of England is about as good as it gets.

Yes, not 24 hours after Freshfields announced its role advising the Bank on its role in the Bradford & Bingley rescue, corporate partner Graham Nicholson has moved over to become its legal chief (see story).

Nicholson is a Freshfields veteran, serving at the firm for 27 years.

And with the Bank already a long-standing Freshfields client under Dame Juliet Wheldon, Nicholson’s predecessor, it looks set to remain tied to the magic circle firm for some time. (Either that or Nicholson will disappear from an awful lot of Christmas card lists).

After 37 years at Freshfields, including a spell as managing partner, Nicholson could arguably be said to deserve a break. But with the Bank set to play a pivotal role in, well, the rescue of the British economy, he’s likely to be busy for quite a while yet.

Which is good news for his old colleagues.

30 September 2008

There’s nothing like a crisis to rally the troops, particularly if those troops have been forced to watch the action from afar. Just ask Akin Gump, K&L Gates and Mayer Brown, all of which have set up crisis groups to help their clients deal with the dire state of the financial markets (see story).

The major roles on ongoing banking failures, nationalisations and all round state interventions have been snapped up by a large proportion of the Transatlantic Elite. With what was once known as the credit crunch escalating into something distinctly more epoch defining, it’s not surprising that other firms want a piece of the action.

Akin Gump, K&L Gates and Mayer Brown could be clutching at straws though. Clients of the firms who are confused by market activity are being offered access to analyses, news round ups and general counselling, in what must surely go under the elusive “value added services” umbrella.

These ‘crisis units’ will clearly never rival the place-in-history work being done by the likes of Sullivan & Cromwell chairman Rodgin Cohen, but at least they might create a bit of work for some otherwise thumb-twiddling lawyers.

Mayer Brown has set up a taskforce of lawyers in its financial transactions, restructuring, employment, pensions, tax, real estate, regulatory and banking litigation practices, presumably to man the phones on its hotline.

Could this be the start of the era of law firm call centres? If they utilise lawyer time they will beat redundancy consultations anyway. Just ask Cobbetts (see story).

Slaughter late than never
29 September 2008

It’s been a long time coming but it’s happened at last: Slaughter and May has emerged in the Wall St chaos, advising in the Bradford and Bingley rescue (see story).

As we have noted more than once since the Lehman collapse, Slaughters has hitherto been mysteriously absent from the host of elite firms involved.

Lehman? Merrill? Linklaters and Weil Gotshal starred.

AIG? Sullivan & Cromwell. Lloyds-HBOS? Er, Links again.

The US government’s $70bn cash lifeline? Cravath and Davis Polk. The Barclays Lehman bid? Clifford Chance. And the JP Morgan-WaMu takeover? Simpson Thacher and Sullivan.

The Sweet Sixteen of Transatlantic firms have also enjoyed a host of other, smaller roles on the transactions, making Slaughters’ absence from even the junior player list all the more mysterious. But advising the government on a £50bn part nationalisation of one of the country’s best-known lenders is at least the firm turning up late in style.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sullivan’s Rodgin Cohen has been involved in almost every Wall St fallout deal going – including the Citi-Wachovia banking deal today. Read our exclusive profile of Cohen for more on him.