BLP halfway to happiness

It won’t be long before the financial reporting season is upon us again. How time flies when you’re having fun. Partners’ minds will soon be turning to the annual billing bulge, and the sounds of whips cracking will again reverberate around the country. Except at Berwin Leighton Paisner.

The firm that probably already feels smug about its half-year figures (it has predicted an average profit per equity partner of over £500,000 and more than a 15 per cent increase in turnover at the year-end) is building on last year’s astounding profits. The management, prompted by finance director Charlotte Balfry, has instigated a quarterly blitz on reducing work in progress and improving cash collection. With a hike on last year’s 40 per cent profit increase in sight, expect copycat programmes elsewhere. You have been warned.

The Law Soc on conflicts: a sucker for the City?

The Lawyer’s story last week revealing that Slaughter and May was under fire for a dual role on rival bids for the London Stock Exchange brought conflicts of interest back to the top of the agenda.
To be fair, conflicts have barely been out of the news since 2004’s ruckus over Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s work on Philip Green’s failed takeover of Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Slaughters’ brilliant piece of litigation against its old rival.

The Law Society is popularly understood to be investigating Freshfields over M&S, although it refuses to be drawn. But the society’s lack of open activity over conflicts is angering lawyers in smaller firms, who see their larger and more powerful City colleagues getting away with repeated abuses of the rules. Worse still, the society is even unable to give details on how many firms are under investigation at the moment. A spokesman said the computer system just couldn’t produce the information.

It’s certainly a poor show from an organisation desperate to retain its regulatory function in the post-Clementi legal world.

Cadwalader rivals in a lather over P&G’s Gillette purchase
The news that Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft landed work advising Procter & Gamble (P&G) on its mammoth $57bn (£30.25bn) acquisition of Gillette was a shock to many (and presumably a major disappointment to Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, historically the US giant’s preferred counsel in the US).

For Cadwalader, though, and particularly for Dennis Block, the firm’s maverick corporate partner who led on the deal, it is quite a coup.
There’s no surprises on the other side of the negotiating table, with Davis Polk & Wardwell (led by partners George Barson and Leonard Kreynin) advising Gillette.

There was never any chance of P&G’s preferred UK advisers – CMS Cameron McKenna and Simmons & Simmons – muscling in on the transaction, as it was handled entirely out of the company’s Cincinnati headquarters.

The acquisition affords both firms an early boost in the race to top the league tables, and both will now by vying to become P&G’s preferred US counsel, with Fried Frank lurking in the wings.