Divided opinions

Chris Fogarty focuses on the top 100 firms' views on issues ranging from the single currency to a fused profession

For a profession that is often accused of being pinstriped and conservative, there is a surprising diversity of opinions about the issues that directly affect firms.

More than two thirds of the 125 firms contacted responded to the confidential section of The Lawyer's Top 100 survey, giving their opinions on everything from a fused profession to a single European currency.

The survey is characterised by a division in opinion. In fact the only near consensus came when firms were asked about the performance of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine.

Of those firms that responded, 41 per cent thought his performance had been poor, 29 per cent thought it had been satisfactory, while only 4 per cent said it had been good.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a reforming Lord Chancellor, no one thought he was doing a excellent job.

Yet the findings on other issues are not so clear. When asked if they were geared up for conditional fees, 57.3 per cent of the respondent firms said they were, while only 13.3 per cent admitted that they were not.

But when asked if the profession as a whole was prepared as a business entity to administer conditional fees, only 25 per cent of firms said they thought it was ready, while 65 per cent said it was not.

So while the top 100 firms in the UK are fairly confident that, as individual firms, they are prepared for conditional fees, they are just as confident that the profession as a whole is not.

There is also an indication that firms are more worried about US competition than the situation in their European backyard. While 50 per cent said assistants' salaries were rising because of the influence of US firms, 48 per cent did not believe a single European currency would have a significant impact on their firm.

It should also be noted that while 42 per cent of firms did not think US firms were pushing up assistants salaries, almost all of these respondents were based outside of London.