Why bumper fees are still rare beasts

I suspect Colin MacNeill will be a much-envied man this week. In this issue, we reveal that the Edinburgh-based Dickson Minto partner charged a £1m uplift from £750,000 to £1.7m (dependent on completion) acting for AG Barr on its merger with Britvic.

Catrin Griffiths

There’s nothing like a million-pound success fee to put a spring in a corporate partner’s step, but that level of billing stands out for its comparative rarity. Corporate lawyers report that clients are still pretty wary of conditional arrangements; for example, Travers Smith proposed a discount on abort and success premium for advising on Metric Property Investments’ £800m deal with London & Stamford Property, but ended up charging on the clock.

As Glenstrata demonstrates, charging in the conventional way does not preclude big bills, but the prospect of party-bag fees off the back of meaty deals is a long way off. Clients are simply not treating lawyers the same way they treat their investment bankers.

Of course, City editor Joshua Freedman’s research is confined to public M&A, where new disclosure rules require transparency on adviser fees; data on private deals is not freely available. That said, top-end private equity practices are still very much visible in the table. Vista Equity Partners’ appearance on the takeover of Misys gives us some insight into Kirkland & Ellis’s lucrative practice in London; estimated acquirer fees on that transaction were £4.3m.

Dickson Minto’s MacNeill wasn’t alone in having a good end of 2012. Standout partners include Aaron Stocks of Travers Smith, who also acted for 2IL Orthopaedics on the takeover of Corin Group, and Graham Stedman of Nabarro, who starts his term as senior partner of the firm having bagged a £1m deal fee on the opposite side of Stocks’ team at Travers Smith for London & Stamford Property.

And let’s not forget Goodman Derrick’s Simon McLeod; check out his firm’s appearance for Titan International, which netted total acquirer fees of £650,000.

Which brings me neatly to The Lawyer Awards, in association with Travelers, which takes place at the end of June (see www.thelawyerawards.com). The question is, which of those deals will feature in the corporate category? Place your bids now.