While you were on holiday, the news kept coming. Hammonds may have closed the summer blushing at the antics revealed by a former lawyer in his novel Fish Sunday Thinking (Shock! Horror! Lawyers have sex!), but it kicked off August with more serious news. The Lawyer revealed that senior partner Richard Burns was stepping down at the end of the financial year, just one disastrous year into his second three-year term. His resignation was accompanied by the news that former managing partner Chris Jones was negotiating his departure from the firm. The pair presided over a terrible period, when profits sunk, debts mounted and partners quit. A Hammonds loyalist admitted: “The problem with Richard is that he’s an incurable optimist, and the problem with Chris is that he’s incapable of giving people bad news. That’s a lethal cocktail.”
As Hammonds regrouped, a wave of law firms looked to the Middle East to take advantage of the booming energy and projects market. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer launched its Dubai office, with Ashurst and DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary set to follow suit.
Those that weren’t invading the United Arab Emirates (and some which were) rushed into China. DLA Piper (again) romped into Beijing as part of its mission to be a global super middleweight. Hogan & Hartson launched in Hong Kong, the fifth US firm to announce new offices in China since March.
It wasn’t just the Middle and Far East proving attractive. A bunch of US firms were looking to EC1 for a merger partner. Astonishingly, 70 of the top 100 US firms already have a London base. The Lawyer revealed that six of the remaining 30 reckoned there was space for them, too.
One firm that won’t be launching anywhere is Coudert Brothers. The Lawyer has documented its sad decline in some detail over the last few months and revealed on 18 August that it had reached the final furlong. Following the collapse of merger talks with Baker & McKenzie, the firm’s partnership agreed that they could seek alternative employment. The firm banned the word ‘dissolution’ and set up a ‘special situations committee’ to feed the vultures looking to pick off Coudert’s remaining juicy bits.
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