Parish’s actions speak louder than his words

Back in February Norton Rose’s banking chief Stephen Parish lashed out at rival firms following a disastrous week in which Ashurst poached his head of energy in the Middle East and Herbert Smith took two of his finance partners.

Back in February Norton Rose‘s banking chief Stephen Parish lashed out at rival firms following a disastrous week in which Ashurst poached his head of energy in the Middle East and Herbert Smith took two of his finance partners.

“It means the law firms are pretty much cutting their own throats,” he cried.

But if you can’t beat ’em… Parish is emerging as a pivotal figure at the centre of a hiring frenzy where every rainmaker with Middle East experience is hot property.

Today he hit Denton Wilde Sapte where he has personal experience of it hurting by taking its star head of Islamic finance Farmida Bi (see story).

Parish seems fond of bloody analogies. Today, he commented: “It has been a long time trying to get her on the hook and reel her in.”

And then it was his turn to wield the knife.

Why is Freshfields pursuing costs against Bloxham?

As yet another claim is dropped against Freshfields (see story), the unfortunate case of PJ Bloxham v Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer takes an interesting turn. Both sides have claimed that it’s never been about the money.

Bloxham, a partner at the top of lockstep until 2006, has been receiving an annual lifetime pension from Freshfields of £175,000 since he retired. He brought a £4.5m age discrimination claim against his old firm, which failed last month when the tribunal unanimously found for Freshfields.

Now Freshfields has confirmed that it will apply for costs. This could be as little as £100,000 (little if you’re a firm that’s just earned itself £560m in six months), but insiders say the bill could run as high as £1m (see story).

Even that’s eye-watering for a former partner. But is it really about the money?

Probably not. If it was going to pursue costs, Freshfields’ deadline was yesterday. The deadline for a Bloxham appeal is another 13 days off while Lois Moore’s hearing date was looming ever closer. Freshfields appears to be using hardball litigation tactics in the hope of stifling both an appeal and also a hearing for Moore. A Bloxham appeal would cost even more money and even more publicity.

And neither side really wants that.

Playing the percentages

The half-year figures provide a stark illustration of where your firm is at.

In almost any other year, a 10 per cent rise in revenue would be a respectable performance. For some it would be seen as a godsend. But for the first six months of this financial year, it’s not far off a disaster.

Eversheds, Lovells and Pinsents Masons were pretty pleased with their 10 per cents. They will be less so, when they see the top 30’s figures here.

So we thought we’d bring you not only a comprehensive round-up, but include comments from senior sources within the firm. And helpfully, we’re providing a translation of their spin. Click here for the inside track.

A sign of the New York times

There was shock and awe in Manhattan as (Clifford Chance). laid off six – count them – associates. Seeing as the firm has more than 400 lawyers in the US, maybe shock and awe is overdoing it a tad.

Nobody likes layoffs, except maybe journalists. But these need to be put into context. Twelve months ago Clifford Chance ramped up its New York structured finance team to capitalise on unprecedented levels of business. They were hired to do a specific job, working exclusively for Standard & Poor’s on mortgage-backed securities-related documentation.

In August that work died. Overnight. Unfortunately, when events such as the credit crunch happen there are casualties.

As one Clifford Chance insider put it: “We did what needed to be done. We’re a healthy firm doing well, but one area dried up. That doesn’t affect our underlying health.”

The reality is twofold. Clifford Chance is in growth mode in the US (it hired 47 associates this year alone) and it will not be alone in making layoffs from its structured finance group.

Like the current bonus season, expect this to be more of a trend than a one-off.

In the face of diversity

Clifford Chance is the largest law firm in the world. Where it leads, others will follow.

Last year it was one of six firms named by gay rights organisation Stonewall as a diversity champion. This year, Stonewall has named another 12 firms as diversity champions (see story).

Diversity champions support their gay and lesbian staff. Unfortunately, one of Clifford Chance’s partners, Michael Bryceland, didn’t feel that well supported, and filed suit against the firm alleging sexual orientation discrimination.

Clifford Chance settled. Stonewall was not pleased and demanded an emergency meeting. Today, The Lawyer revealed that Clifford Chance launched its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender network and Stonewall was once again happy with the world’s largest law firm.

Where it leads, others follow. We predict gay employee networks will spring up around the City.