Wish you were here

Arriving into Lisbon airport, there is a sign proclaiming that the city is trying to invent the seven new wonders of the world.

We think The Lawyer can help.

At our summit, there was the wonderful sight of the European Commission’s acting deputy director general for competition Emil Paulis and Microsoft European competition director Carel Maske breaking bread.

Both gave talks (with varying perspectives) on European law. The contrast was illuminating to say the least.

In fact, that’s what the summit has been all about; bringing in-house lawyers and private practice together, with a smattering of star speakers. It’s been a bit of a cross between a trade fair, your first day at university and a group therapy session.

You can read the inside track – and that includes polar bears, panel politics and gaudy shirts – on the Summit blog.

And if you want to hear some of the delegates speak their minds, check out the latest Lawyer Podcast – out on Monday. You can download it on iTunes or get it on www.thelawyerpodcast.com

Freshfields gifts associates party bonus

It’s going to be a corking New Year’s Eve if you’re a Freshfields associate in New York. Bragging rights have now been secured over the firm’s poor, impecunious rivals over at A&O thanks to the timing of their bonuses.
As we report today, both firms have joined the bonus fray by matching market rates for end-of-year and the one-off ‘special’ bonuses. See story

These handy pre-Christmas packages start at a knockdown $35,000 for associates with a few days’ experience – it’s got to be worth it – and go up to $115,000 for anyone with a few years under their belt.

So both magic circle firms are paying the same. The only difference is when they’re paying. Freshfields’ associates will have their full whack by 31 December, while those over at A&O will have to wait until mid-January.

And as anybody who’s enjoyed watching this year’s bonus war unfold knows, timing is everything. Just ask Cravath. It kicked off the bonus season two weeks ago – not as a gauntlet-throwing exercise, you understand, merely so its lawyers could plan their Christmas holidays.

Watson Farley’s jaguar proves to be white elephant

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) and Chadbourne & Parke have abandoned merger talks ( See story).

WFW partners will be more than a little disappointed by the news. A source said spirits were high at the partners’ conference last month, with the majority of the firm supporting a merger with the US energy giant.

The talks, codenamed Project Jaguar, were high on the agenda, but their content was a secret as WFW managing partner Michael Greville kept progress reports close to his chest.

While Greville and Chadbourne managing partner Charles O’Neill couldn’t agree on how best to make the merger work, they were singing from the same hymn sheet when it came to their parting comments.

Their bland statement read: “There was a good business case for the merger and Chadbourne & Parke/WFW is an excellent firm. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach agreement.”

It is hoped the internal communication was not so anodyne. At the time of going to press, rumours reached us that Greville’s internal email announcement said merely: “The jaguar has fallen from the tree.”

Rescuing The Rock

Have you ever played Six Degrees of Separation?

We imagine that a similar game is played at 65 Fleet Street. Only Freshfields gets to explain how few steps away they are from a deal.

If the deal in question is Northern Rock, there are many ways to do it. Might we suggest one of the following steps:

1) Former Freshfields chief operating officer Kirk Stevenson is a director of investment group Olivant.

2) As revealed by The Lawyer today Olivant has instructed Tim Emmerson of Sullivan & Cromwell, a well-respected Freshfields alumnus.

3) Olivant is suggesting a rescue package for Northern Rock, advised by Freshfields.

4) Northern Rock sponsors Newcastle United, chaired by Freshfields partner Chris Mort.

Actually, that last one’s a little tangential, but never mind. No matter which way you look at it, Freshfields must be the most influential firm in the country.

Cherie and more

In The Lawyer today, Cherie Booth of Matrix Chambers talks about her practice before, during and after Downing Street.

In her first print interview since leaving Downing Street, Booth flies the flag for Britain, saying she wouldn’t follow her husband’s attorney general Lord Goldsmith to a US firm, while singing the praises of UK firms’ global efforts and the British justice system.

Read more about her early career, her mentors and her ambitions here.