Rocky time for US firms

John Edwards is leaving Sidley & Austin's London office, which he ran for nearly six years, to join Taylor Joynson Garrett in the same week that Stephen Fiamma, managing partner of Jones Day Reavis & Pogue's UK practice, departs for Allen & Overy.

Could the two incidents possibly be related? The last year has seen US firms in London aggressively hiring partners with the promise of big bucks and exciting international work. And the market for good lawyers is overheating as US firms raise their London rates to follow the staggering salaries being paid to New York assistants.

But the legal world has been rife with rumours of US firm's London offices denied the money and flexibility to build a successful practice in Europe. Their cover was blown in January when Weil Gotshal & Manges' London office lost its founder Maurice Allen and three other partners because Allen felt he was not getting the support he needed from New York.

And now Edwards and the anglophile Fiamma are bucking the trend by joining UK firms. It could just be that, despite the money and glamour attached to some of the US firms, UK firms provide the most stable homes for good lawyers to practise.

That story has not made many headlines, but it is one lawyers should bear in mind.

Whether his decision is right or wrong the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham's ruling that the minimum wage does not apply to pupil barristers sends a negative message to prospective students of the bar.

It illustrates that the bar continues to lag behind solicitors in the rights afforded to its trainees.

While the Bar Council may privately welcome Bingham's decision, the modern bar would do well to show a strong commitment to a culture of rights for all junior members of the profession by disregarding it.