HBJ suffers for its art

HBJ suffers for its art
There is no doubt about the story of the day. Yesterday (4 October) police raided the Glasgow office of HBJ Gateley Wareing to seize a stolen Leonardo Da Vinci painting thought to be worth £30m (see story).

HBJ suffers for its art

There is no doubt about the story of the day. Yesterday (4 October) police raided the Glasgow office of HBJ Gateley Wareing to seize a stolen Leonardo Da Vinci painting thought to be worth £30m (see story).

The painting is so important it was listed on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted pieces of stolen artwork.

The police didn’t only seize the painting. They police also left HBJ’s offices with partner Calum Jones, who today has been charged with conspiracy to rob and extort money (see story).

On this occasion, one can understand why the firm declined to comment.

Norton Rose‘s long slow march to Tokyo

Norton Rose’s announcement of a new office in Tokyo (see story) could go down in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest decision ever made in legal history.

The firm has been talking about opening in Japan for decades. In fact, it’s been mulling it ever since it opened its first-ever overseas office in Hong Kong back in the 1970s.

So what’s been stopping the firm? The small problem of not having any Japanese clients and not knowing any Japanese lawyers. Oh, and the cost.

Half of that problem has been solved through its buoyant Middle East practice coming up with the cunning tactic of seconding associates to Japanese companies.

The expense of opening a Japanese office has been a trickier issue in recent years. Chief executive Peter Martyr has privately confessed concern that previous forays overseas had stymied profitability.

Let’s just hope there’s plenty of money in the Norton Rose piggy bank for this venture.

Linklaters refuses to go it Cologne

It’s classic Linklaters. In a press release late yesterday (2 October) it announced the formal vote of corporate stars Ralph Wollburg and Achim Kirchfeld, who were hired from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer‘s Düsseldorf office, into its partnership (see story).

So far so good. But what’s this? Tucked away at the bottom of the release was this cheery little statement.

“With the opening of a new office in Düsseldorf, Linklaters will wind down its nearby Cologne office. A number of partners in the Cologne office do not share the strategic vision of opening an office in Düsseldorf and the firm is engaged in constructive discussions with them.”

The Linklaters line is that because Düsseldorf is the industrial centre of Germany, that’s where the firm has to be to service corporate clients.


Certainly, Wollburg and Kirchfeld wouldn’t have moved to Cologne, but this is something much more substantial. The majority of Linklaters’ Cologne office is staying put despite the closure.

Linklaters is essentially reshaping its entire German corporate practice. We wouldn’t go so far as to call it a complete cull, but it’s not far off.

Still, it’s nice that Linklaters announced this the night before the country’s national holiday today: a holiday for German unity, no less.

A&O, CC enjoy moment in M&A spotlight

Allen & Overy (A&O) and Clifford Chance have maintained their lead at the top of 2007’s M&A league table after the third quarter, much to the chagrin of Freshfields and Linklaters. See story.

While any excuse to pop a few champagne corks is obviously a good one, the firms would be wise not to expect supremacy come the end of the year.

Deals are falling over left, right and centre in the US and both firms are somewhat reliant on ABN Amro and Barclays finally tying the knot to keep ahead of Freshfields, which tops Thomson Financial’s chart for deals completed.

But no matter what ABN shareholders decide when they vote on Thursday, both A&O and Clifford Chance will be chuffed to be lording it over Linklaters on deals completed so far.

And, as Freshfields closes another office (this time in Budapest), perhaps its magic circle rivals can be charitable in giving it something to cheer about at the end of its annus horribilis.

Breaking up is hard to do.

Saving face is very important, especially if you’ve just split up with someone.

But we think Kramer Levin’s managing Paul Pearlman may be taking this a little far. As we reveal today (see story), the five-year romance between Berwin Leighton Paisner and its erstwhile US alliance partner Kramer Levin has fizzled out.

But in Matt Byrne’s Byrne In The USA blog today, Pearlman says the relationship has merely been “recharacterised”. That’s what we call an excellent euphemism.

Pearlman might want to have a look at another of our stories today (see story). A host of leading matrimonial lawyers have got together to promote the concept of divorce with dignity.

Oh, did we say divorce? We mean recharacterisation, right?