Davies Arnold Cooper is a sign of the times

The revelation that Davies Arnold Cooper is to make 90 staff redundant and is on the verge of selling off its Manchester office will send shudders through many middle-sized firms. At first glance, DAC's drastic move seems to signal that something is seriously wrong in the mid-sized firm market and in the North West.

Both assumptions are wrong. True, middle-tier firms are being squeezed between the big five and successful niche practices, with Simmons & Simmons and Herbert Smith just two of the other firms who have shed whole departments in recent weeks.

Yet what the market is witnessing is more of a restructuring than a breakdown of the middle-tier firms. Most observers of the legal market agree that middle-tier firms are wise to concentrate on their successful core areas rather than trying to be all things to all clients. And many, especially firms in the North West, are thriving on this strategy.

In the same week that DAC prepared to slash staff in Manchester, The Lawyer reveals that local firm Halliwell Landau is opening in London. Halliwells, Cobbetts, Pannone & Partners and Davies Wallis Foyster are all middle-tier firms in the North West that are enjoying record profits by focusing on key practice areas. It is a lesson London firms have been slower to learn.