Outsourcing was 2009’s big deal

The Norton Rose-Deacons and Lovells-Hogan deals are by contrast products of strategic impasses; both are buying into a global model that the likes of Freshfields and Linklaters are moving away from.

My worry is that the goodwill towards Lovells in the market is based less on an analysis of the deal and more on the desire to give a hug to one of the nicer firms in the City. (See page 16 for news editor Margaret Taylor’s feature, the first major interview with the Lovells team since the merger was signed last month.)

The more far-reaching shift in 2009 was the emergence of outsourcing as a management tool, and as we report this week, this is colouring law firm thinking. Most managing partners are ­actively investigating it, and with good reason – clients like it. Rio Tinto paved the way here, and indeed its managing attorney Leah Cooper is in our Hot 100 list this year for her pioneering work in this area.

Last year Allen & Overy, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons and, most ­significantly, Slaughter and May began ­investigating ­outsourcing programmes. In the
long run this will change the dynamics of the legal ­market more than mergers, however well-­conceived they are.

There is one section of the legal profession that has thrived in the past 12 months, and that is the bar. Our report today on Ofgem’s decision to use direct access confirms the trend; the bar is ­becoming hugely popular with clients who rather like the notion of paying for legal advice rather than what they see as mere process.

With this issue of The Lawyer is The Hot 100 2010, which is one of our favourite projects. We think this year’s is one of the most interesting yet, as the individuals featured have all shone despite one of the toughest years on record. ­Congratulations to them all.