Let me break it to Olswang. Greenberg Traurig may be saying nice things about its relationship with you, but the days of your cooperation are numbered.
Clearly, it will take Greenberg a while to build up a respectably sized operation, but the Miami firm is thinking – and paying – big in hiring Paul Maher, along with two of his former partners from Mayer Brown in London (see story).
Actually, Greenberg doesn’t much like the Miami tag, given how sniffy New Yorkers are about Florida law firms. And to be fair, it has had enormous growth in recent years; its ability to snare big-name lawyers in New York was evinced by its capture of restructuring partner Bruce Zirinsky from Cadwalader last autumn.
Will this work? Maher divides people – lawyers are either unquestionably fans, or they’re not. The fact that Maher managed to get his name attached to the London LLP will be seen by his critics as an ego trip, but it underscores his determination to build something lasting, as well as being the most public possible demonstration of his negotiation skills.
Once the initial fuss has subsided, Greenberg Traurig Maher will be very interesting to watch. It will face all the problems of a US start-up in London, but in the long term its biggest challenge is whether it can create a new model, as Maher wants. He is vociferous on the subject of pricing structures. The closed compensation system at Greenberg, where no partner knows what any other is paid, is just the way that corporates operate. Whatever you think about this (there are plenty of reasons why there should be more, not less, transparency in a partnership), it certainly takes out a whole behavioural layer of navel-gazing and internal battles of ego.
Even more intriguingly, Greenberg Traurig Maher is structuring itself in readiness for external capital, should it be necessary. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the US is less sold on the notion of external investment in the London operation. However, Maher wants everything in place in order to be able to act fast and gain immediate first-mover advantage. That’s a long way off, but such boldness will be a good selling point to laterals in London, at the very least.