From New York Mayor to over here

The grandest lawyers you meet as a legal journalist are almost always from New York, usually from firms that fetishise oak panelling and corner offices. Meeting Rudy Giuliani, however, was a surprisingly unstuffy experience; even his security detail cracked the odd smile.

Giuliani, who most of us know better as the former Mayor of New York, is name partner with Texas firm Bracewell & Giuliani. He was in town a few weeks ago for his firm’s relaunch in London. You won’t be surprised to hear he was a highly persuasive advocate for his own practice.

This week we’re examining Bracewell’s ambitions to colonise the UK energy market, a move given particular impetus by the advent of shale gas. And this week is running an exclusive video interview with the former mayor.

Aside from the usual corporate finance hires, US firms have tended to make their most high-profile London investments in white collar crime expertise. That’s something that Giuliani knows a little bit about, having spent much of the 1980s prosecuting white collar crime as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. But that’s not where the big play for Bracewell is.

Will it succeed? Bracewell is barely known in the UK but it’s rebooting London on the back of a superb financial performance last year; revenues were up 20 per cent and average PEP up 42 per cent to $1.45m. Name recognition for firms outside the big white-shoe New York practices is limited. Akin Gump, Vinson & Elkins and Baker Botts have quietly built substantial English-law practices in London, despite not being as shouty as corporate and leveraged finance lawyers from Wall Street. Their focus is narrower but their margins are high and, crucially, they’re acting for the funds piling into energy.

But there is one obvious fly in the ointment. Shale gas is not politically a done deal over here. That’s a lot of hopes pinned on fracking. It’s going to see considerable protests, but ex-politicos aren’t ever going to be shy of controversy. As Giuliani admitted to me on video, “all life is a gamble and all business propositions are a gamble”. For more of Giuliani, his recollections of his time in office – and his favourite karaoke song, see our video interview.