Tucked away in the latest half-year deal tables is a name that barely resonates outside Holborn. (For the benefit of our City readers: that's slightly west of you.) Nestling cosily between Ashurst Morris Crisp and Norton Rose in the Thomson Financial table of UK announced deals is none other than Nabarro Nathanson.
In the first six months of this year Nabarro Nathanson managed to
outperform Norton Rose in deal value, and Berwin Leighton Paisner and CMS Cameron McKenna in both deal value and volume. What's more, it made a creditable showing in the deals announced table for European targets, despite having little or no European spread.
Although there's nothing like trouncing Norton Rose to put a smile on most people's faces, there is no chance that Nabarros is going to give the top ten sleepless nights. But the M&A battle outside the top ten is potentially even more interesting. And the main contenders are starting to emerge: Pinsent Curtis Biddle, Eversheds, Berwin Leighton Paisner, CMS Cameron
McKenna, Travers Smith Braithwaite, Macfarlanes, Hammond Suddards Edge and Gouldens. Several of these have refocused their energies; Hammonds' renewed interest in straight deal-doing rather than fancy-pants finance is just one sign of the intensifying battle among the mid-cap firms.
Meanwhile, Nabarros' rise coincides with its new management team, Nicky Paradise and Simon Johnston – the latter having the distinction of being the first corporate partner to lead the firm. And it is no surprise that Nabarros has exploited the mid-market to get this far; it has a strong AIM practice, good relationships with mid-tier corporate finance and private equity houses, an old-economy office in Sheffield and a new-economy office in Reading.
Unlike other AIM stars such as Memery Crystal, Nabarros has the resources to become a full-service firm for the UK Mittelstand. The UK mid-cap market needs dedicated lawyers; that is where an all-round offering, from employment to corporate to IT, is likely to be best received. And unlike competitors such as Pinsent Curtis Biddle (regional firm? National firm? City firm? Or what?) the Nabarros offering is also simple to grasp – and a lot less chippy.
The Nabarros corporate team should be able to hold its own against other mid-tier law firms; the biggest competition is from the accountants, which also operate full-service practices built on domestic business. Frankly, this is less of a threat, more an opportunity. If the Landwell management had any sense, they'd be on the phone.