The Year That Was: Highlights of 2004

Helen Power, City editor

We’re off to do our Christmas shopping now, but for those of you with 10 working days left before Christmas, here are our top 10 favourite stories from 2004.

In January, we brought you the news that the great Nigel Boardman was stepping down as head of corporate at Slaughter and May because, in his own words: “Eight years of counting paperclips is enough – they all look the same after a while.”

He should have gone to Freshfields for a bit of R&R. Partners there have been playing a corporate bonding game in which they had to get fellow partners to sign a CV hung around their necks. On the CV partners also had to list their hobbies – one listed his as “my organ”.

In March, we revealed that Ernst & Young had spent more than £22m developing its 11-partner law firm Tite & Lewis. That’s more than the going rate for a small premier league football team. But forget the beancounters and save your tears for personal injury lawyer Bill Braithwaite QC of Exchange Chambers. He was banned from sitting as a judge in April, when articles he penned for The Lawyer apparently made him appear too biased for the bench.

Bryan Cave, on the other hand, won’t need your sympathy. In May, the US firm was taking no chances when it sent the SAS into southern Iraq to case the joint in preparation for a planned office opening. There’s no sign of the office yet, but perhaps it could send in Bevan Ashford lawyer Tim Hughes, who jetted off to Jordan in July to advise Saddam Hussein without telling his colleagues. Hughes is now believed to be in Tiverton.

Back in the UK, Freshfields planned to ask Philip Green for at least £1m in fees, despite being thrown off the Marks & Spencer bid by the High Court. Given Green’s view of lawyers, we just hope there wasn’t any hot coffee nearby.

In August, Dechert put down its own insurgents, fining its late-billing partners $50 (£26) a day, while Lovells was forced to close a dozen client meeting rooms when a rogue glass table spontaneously combusted.

The final word though must go to Nigel Knowles of DLA. In the wake of his US merger, it seems Knowles has found a tie-up down under with a firm known in Sydney as “Frilly Frocks” due to its gay-friendly attitudes. Some of DLA’s more reactionary partners have objected. Perhaps DLA should hire Bevan Ashford’s Hughes for a Baghdad launch instead.

We’re not back until 10 January, so enjoy the festive period. And don’t forget, it’s a serious business, the law.