Thank crunch it’s Friday

Thank crunch it’s Friday
24 October 2008
With the pound as weak as water, firms like Halliwells ‘reorganising’ their finances (see story) and banks being nationalised at a rate not seen since revolutionary Cuba, it might be a surprise to hear that a few firms had really quite a nice 2007-08, thank you very much.

With the pound as weak as water, firms like Halliwells ‘reorganising’ their finances (see story) and banks being nationalised at a rate not seen since revolutionary Cuba, it might be a surprise to hear that a few firms had really quite a nice 2007-08, thank you very much.

As our UK 200: Finance feature, published online today, reveals, the crunch came far too late to hit to ruin a good 2007-08 for finance teams at firms ranging from the magic circle to Norton Rose and Herbies (see feature). And a similar tale can be told about corporate (see feature).

Of course, since then most finance teams have seen tumbleweeds. And the less said about real estate the better. But we do have some good news. Well, sort of.

The latest posts on our Legal Job Watch include good news for those whose jobs are on the line. In the first, Luke McLeod-Roberts spotlights an employer that is actually hiring real estate lawyers.

And in the second, legal careers adviser Geoffrey Hand has a few words of advice to remember if you are unlucky enough to be in your redundancy discussion.

“Disdain the statutory minimum as an irrelevant concept – it is a safety net provided by the state to protect the vulnerable from exploitative employers. You – and your firm – are in a different league.”

That’s fighting talk. Read on.

Halliwells makes a statement
23 October 2008

No firm is provoking more speculation than Halliwells at the moment.

The North-West terrier was a byword for aggressive national expansion a few years ago. But this year it became strangely coy about its profits, turnover flatlined and it became one of the first firms to make redundancies – 12 in March and a further 40 in consultation right now (see story).

Which brings us to its statement on its finances today (see story).

So Halliwells is increasing its capital base. But there’s no cash call, it says, and it hasn’t increased its debt obligations either. Rather, the borrowings – which according to the LLP accounts as at 30 April 2007, stand at GBP3.73m – are being ‘reorganised’.

A prudent move, we’d all agree. Though you might have thought such an expansionist firm would have noticed a bit earlier in the cycle that it was under-capitalised.

Building relationship
22 October 2008

Another day, another building society merger – and another set of instructions for Addleshaw Goddard and Allen & Overy.

It’s almost heartwarming.

A&O’s corporate team looks to be considerably busier than its once-mighty finance practice, which slipped to third behind Clifford Chance and Linklaters in revenues, as revealed in our corporate feature.

A&O was one of the few firms to keep its restructuring lawyers busy over the last few years, from Marconi to Drax. But those lawyers have had nowhere near the same visibility in 2008.

By contrast, the magic circle firm’s corporate roles this year for financial institutions – such as HBOS on the merger with Lloyds TSB – have been remarkably high-profile. (Just don’t mention the competition implications.)

Meanwhile, Addleshaws’ continued appearance in the building society sector shows what a firm can do if it hangs onto its regional roots. Northern building societies have produced a stream of instructions for Addleshaws lawyers ever since demutualisations in the 1990s – the latest of them today’s Yorkshire-Barnsley merger (see story).

But given the rapid shake-up of that sector, Addleshaws will have to do some defensive footwork to maintain its practice. Will A&O’s finance lawyers need to do something similar?

All change at Bristows?
21 October 2008

Bristows, a firm best known for its outstanding IP practice, has yet again strayed outside its field of excellence for its choice of senior partner.

Corporate lawyer John Lace is taking over from property lawyer Michael Rowles, who is retiring after just two years (see story).

Back in September when The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report was published, we placed Bristows in a ripe-for-merger group along with Barlows, Dentons, Hammonds and McGrigors (see story).

The UK 200 argued that Bristows could not continue as an independent generalist: it should either slim down and become a real IP powerhouse, or merge into a larger firm.

But by voting in corporate lawyer Lace as opposed to, say, IP partner Sally Field, Bristows seems to be sending the message that it intends to carry on as it is. Read our analysis to see who you think is right.

Yes he can!
20 October 2008

First Joe the plumber, now Nige the lawyer – Barack Obama certainly is getting in touch with the common man.

Yes, as if running a presidential campaign wasn’t demanding enough, Obama has also been busy pressing the flesh with DLA co-chief Nigel Knowles (see story).

OK, so £1m-a-year DLA co-chief Nigel Knowles isn’t exactly the common man – but then Joe the plumber wasn’t even a plumber.

And hell, unlike Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, at least Big Nige actually is called Nige.

Anyway, if good marketing is no more than aligning your brand with the glamorous, the ever-enterprising Knowles is probably doing the right thing. Aligning himself with a guy who if not the future leader of the free world, will remain the most totemic representative for all things young, diverse and optimistic since JFK has got to be a good thing.

Less totemic, however was Obama’s former rival Hillary Clinton, now just an also-ran in the 08 primaries but until just months ago as likely as Obama to lead the Democratic charge to the White House.

Which with Knowles’ co-chief Lee Miller having been heavily involved in the Lawyer for Hillary campaign, would have made an equally cosy relationship for DLA USA.

Let’s just hope for their sakes McCain doesn’t take it.