No lull for the mid-market

Our day must come again!” Rarely have I heard such unalloyed glee from a litigator – or at least not since the glory days of 2003, when contentious practices ruled the roost.

It’s almost impossible to imagine now, but four years ago dispute resolution powered the financial performances of City firms: in 13 of the biggest 20 law firms, litigation produced better revenue per partner figures than corporate.

After several years of litigators being metaph-orically locked in the closet, it’s the corporate lawyers who have time on their hands. Naturally, they’ve taken advantage of the slowdown by scheduling epic client development lunches. Frankly, the Rugby World Cup couldn’t have come at a better time.

Meanwhile, the litigators are excitedly fielding enquiries from finance institutions needing to check their positions. But just because the phone has started ringing it doesn’t mean instant instructions, although it’s astonishing how much managing partners have been citing Barlow Lyde & Gilbert as an instant beneficiary of the slowdown.

After the jitters of early September, cautious optim-ism has been re-established. More notably, the soggy summer has barely affected the mid-market – not just the glitzy deal machines such as Macfarlanes or Travers Smith, but the likes of Eversheds and Nabarro.

Plenty of attention has been focused on the silver circle and their wannabes. This summer has proved that the slightly less fashionable end of the mid-market – Pringle rather than Prada, shall we say – has got its act together.

And all of this stems from something apparently entirely divorced from the UK – the sub-prime chaos on the other side of the Atlantic. The extent to which the UK and US markets are intertwined is one of the reasons why we at The Lawyer have gone transatlantic: our associate editor Matt Byrne has relocated to New York and will begin his column next week, but you can read his blog on our newly relaunched website as of today (24 September).

Until now no publication has successfully integrated its reporting on the two most powerful legal markets in the world, but increasingly the New York and London markets are becoming extensions of each other.

Watch this space over the coming weeks.