Medium firms reap reward of targeting

Specialist small firms can take heart from the latest Acquisitions Monthly tables on UK public company takeover advisory work. The tables show the strides these firms have made in picking up lucrative corporate finance contracts in the past year.

While Linklaters & Paines, Slaughter and May and Freshfields still hold top positions, firms with smaller corporate finance departments, such as Ashurst Morris Crisp and Macfarlanes, are leaping up the table to stand at fifth and sixth places respectively. And large firms, such as Denton Hall and Lovell White Durrant, which are outside the inner circle of firms which normally handle the biggest deals, have also shown a single-minded determination in this area. Lovells was hired to work on the high profile, highly-paid deal as lead legal adviser to Granada on its successful £3.6 billion hostile acquisition of Forte. Denton Hall has focused on key sectors such as media and telecommunications and has jumped to sixth from 11th place last year.

The success of these firms must in some part be due to them targeting this type of business, recruiting the right candidates, marketing themselves and offering the right fee package.

With the mergers and acquisitions boom likely to continue, other firms will compete for this work. The successful ones are most likely to be those that have worked out their business strategy and which have been steadily and slowly building this area of work in hard times. As The Lawyer/Coopers & Lybrand survey indicated in July, the firms which were increasing profits and fees were those which devoted time and resources to marketing.

While medium-sized firms worry about the future, evidence shows that serious thought about their business and an action plan playing to their strengths can sway things in their favour.