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Date: 6 March
Subject: Simmons and Watson Farley talks
From: www.the

It’s nice to kick off the first Grapevine with a good meaty story – the Simmons merger talks with Watson Farley. It seems that the entire merger was hatched on a train: Simmons’ David Dickinson and Watson Farley’s
Christopher Preston travel into London in the same carriage…

Date: 13 March
Subject: Simmons’ partnership retreat
From: www.the

I don’t know if they’re all on Valium at Simmons at the moment, but the partners meeting over the weekend – held at City Point rather than some green and golfed-up retreat (oh, very 2002) – seemed a sedate affair.

Considering the revelations on last week that the firm was in talks with Watson Farley, you might have expected some questions from the floor. None were forthcoming. What’s more, managing partner David Dickinson was re-elected unopposed (oh, very North Korea).

Meanwhile, all around the City, people are still scratching their heads at the Watson Farley link-up. It seems to defeat a number of Simmons partners as well. About the best rationale one Simmons partner could come up with was that it would be a great fit with Simmons’ Dutch practice Nolst Trenite, much of which is shipping. Inspired, eh?

Date: 20 March
Subject: Do partners work?
From: www.the

Here’s an intriguing question for you: which firm recently put a private detective on the tails of some partners to find out if they were actually doing any work? Answers on a postcard…

Date: 22 May
Subject: Simmons/Watson Farley talks off
From: www.the

Surprise of the week – not. Watson Farley and Simmons have called off their merger talks. Given the incipient revolt among Simmons’ corporate department at the prospect of merging with a bunch of ship financiers, the move was inevitable.

The big question is: what’s next for Watson Farley?

If nothing else, the Simmons talks have put Watson Farley back on the map. You can bet managing partner Michael Greville will get a few tentative phone calls from firms desperate to bulk up in London. You never know, he may even get a call from Ashursts, which seems keen to talk to almost everybody else.

Date: 29 May
Subject: CC-Brobeck vote back on
From: www.the

Clifford Chance partners are today voting on hiring 21 partners from Brobeck Phleger & Harrison. The vote, which is expected to be successful, will give Clifford Chance its first office on the West Coast of the US. Talks with the Brobeck contingent were broken off a day before the partnership vote, which was originally scheduled for Friday 17 May. Clifford Chance cited “practical challenges that are not likely to be overcome” in its press statement of 16 May. However, The Lawyer has learned that negotiations with the bulk of the Brobeck contingent have resumed.

Date: 12 June
Subject: Freshfields and Debevoise talks
From: www.the

Freshfields and Debevoise – it’s not on. Honest, guv – despite the fact that half the market believes it, wants it and is talking about nothing else.

Date: 3 July
Subject: TJG and Wessing
From: www.the

So the Taylor Joynson Garrett deal with Wessing finally goes through to create Taylor Wessing, despite the Frankfurt employment team flouncing out. We’ve written so much about this deal that I don’t propose to bore you again now, but it is a significant move within the mid-size UK market. All of a sudden another Anglo-German firm is born – and apparently with no official headquarters, as befits a truly pan-European practice. Which sounds utterly laudable and politically correct, until you remember that the firm has decreed that the Wessing part of the name should henceforth be pronounced in the English fashion, rather than ‘Vessing’. Shurely shome mishtake?

Date: 7 July
Subject: Barclays
From: www.the

So farewell Howard Trust – but not just yet. The Barclays general counsel is leaving, but at least he’s giving plenty of notice. As we reveal today on lawyernews, Trust will be stepping down in March 2003.

Date: 4 September
Subject: Enron
From: www.the

Forty-five law firms worldwide, including four of the UK’s magic circle, will be required to hand over documents relating to failed energy company Enron or its special purpose entities.

Among the firms are Allen & Overy’s associate office in Luxembourg Beghin & Feider, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May. Also on the list are four of the top 10 US firms, including Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, Shearman & Sterling and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood.

Date: 30 October
Subject: Paddinggate
From: www.the

It’s open season on lawyers again. What was originally a memo drafted by six Clifford Chance New York associates registering dissatisfaction with their working conditions has now turned into Paddinggate.

Er, except that the US associates didn’t actually say they
padded their hours. They said that the billable hours culture could lead them to do it. And the very possibility that this might happen has become a major news story.

Clifford Chance has been unlucky in being singled out for attack. Slaughter and May – which traditionally has the most gnomic fee notes in the City – must be feeling pretty smug right now, but Clifford Chance doesn’t operate its billing arrangements any differently from most major City firms.

Sure, on the back of this publicity there’s bound to be a client or two that will voice dissatisfaction with its charging arrangements, but one only hopes that the Clifford Chance client relationship programme is robust enough so that transparency, at least, ought not to be an issue.

Actually, the problem is that half the time it’s the clients that are unhappy moving away from hourly-based billing. Many take the view that it may encourage inefficiency, but at least you can see what you’re getting.

But as The Lawyer has been revealing in recent weeks, some in-house counsel have started to act. We’ve reported recently that both Ford and Carillion are in active talks with their advisers to get their input into how to reduce their legal spends. We’d be happy to hear from other in-house lawyers on how they’re approaching the issue. Ford and Carillion may inspire others to adopt more innovative arrangements.

Date: 6 November
Subject: A&O partners leave
From: www.the

Is it something that Allen & Overy is putting in the water, or are we seeing the start of a worrying trend?

Last week’s departure of highly-rated banking partner Euan Gorrie to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett was more than enough to start tongues wagging. But losing capital markets partner Andrew Brodie to Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy days later was just plain mystifying…

Date: 13 November
Subject: Linklaters
From: www.the

Disgruntled associates, a cost-cutting drive and partner departures – the rumour mill is grinding one magic circle firm at the moment and this time it’s not Clifford Chance.

What on earth is going on inside One Silk Street?

Date: 27 November
Subject: Gouldens in talks with Jones Day
From: www.the

You read it here first. Last week, Jones Day was supposed to be in merger talks with Freshfields. (We asked a Freshfields partner about this and he rather sniffily said: “Jones who?” We took that as a no.) This week, the rumour mill has Jones Day talking to – ladies and gentlemen, please hold onto your hats – Gouldens.

Whatever the outcome, the rumours mean that someone, somewhere in Jones Day is sending out seriously expansionist signals. It’s certainly the case that Jones Day, which is now the third-largest law firm in the US, has undergone a change in management in the last month. For the first time it will be led by a partner outside its home base of Cleveland, Ohio. As of the beginning of next year it will be managed by Steve Brogan, a Washington DC litigation partner, who has made it clear that London is his first priority.

For all its size in the US, Jones Day has never really cracked the international market. This is partly because of its highly centralised management culture (most of the partners don’t even know what the others earn). That said, once the power of the centre is behind any outlying office, just watch it motor. Germany is a great example: 10 years with a virtually invisible Frankfurt office, and all of a sudden Jones Day makes a huge splash in Munich and is starting to be seen acting for German blue-chips. Jones Day’s London office – which now has an estimated turnover of £20m – has a similarly subterranean profile, despite a handful of laterals from the likes of Simmons, Theodore Goddard and Hammonds.

Gouldens, meanwhile, is a catch for any US firm. With its highly profit-orientated culture, it’s also one of the most Americanised of the mid-tier UK practices. But why might Gouldens give up its cherished independence? We’re sure a huge premium to partners wouldn’t sway them in the least.