The top stories of 2013: Going bust, barrister hotties and one monster cruise liner

Stories of law firms battling against the continuing squally economic weather balanced a prurient interest in legal profession hotties, the analysis of The Lawyer’s most-read stories of 2013 reveals.

Leading the tales of gloom this year was the drama around the demise of Manchester firm Cobbetts, which kicked off the year with by announcing in January that it was headed for administration and looking for buyers (30 January 2013).

A firm spokesman blamed “difficult trading conditions in the professional services sector” for the move. The Lawyer’s report of Cobbetts’ search for a buyer was the most-read online story this year. The blow-by-blow timeline of the administration (30 January 2013) also factored in the top-20 best read list, while news of DWF picking up Cobbetts in a pre-pack deal came in at 18th (31 January 2013). 

But Cobbetts’ travails was not the only sob story obsessing readers. Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) plans to axe nearly 100 lawyers and staff back in May (14 May 2013) rated second place in the readership league table. 

BLP attributed the move to a desire to cut salary costs in its business services team by 15 per cent. Managing partner Neville Eisenberg said: “We have been in a period of integration and consolidation after a number of years of high growth and investment. The decision to review a number of roles across our London office is part of a general review of our business to ensure that we are well positioned for the future.” 

The firm swung its axe several months after Eversheds, which greeted the new year in January with potential redundancy notices to more than 160 staff in its UK and Asia offices. But even though the firm announced the closure of its Copenhagen office, the story only clocked 12th position on our readership league table (24 January 2013).

Eversheds said it was realigning under a revised global strategy, with a source saying the firm would offer enhanced redundancy packages – understood to be double the statutory requirement – to those eventually getting the bullet. At the top table, the ructions saw global managing partner Lee Ranson becoming interim Asia managing partner, replacing Nick Seddon, who left the firm. 

Rounding out the list of cut-back stories was Wragge & Co. At the beginning of May, the Birmingham-based firm put up to 30 full-time equivalent support staff on P45 watch, with the report coming in at number 17 on the best-read list (8 May 2013). 

The temperature of lawyers also intrigued readers. And the hottest of our hot-related stories – placed at seventh – was a report on a website that rates barristers on the basis of their attractiveness. Tumblr site YourBarristerBoyfriend triggered a firestorm of controversy with its rankings of the most physically attractive lawyers currently sporting horsehair (18 July 2013). For those pretending to have forgotten, Patrick Hennessey of 39 Essex Street, topped the table. 

Meanwhile, the unveiling of The Lawyer’s own Hot 100 list of lawyers making an impact on the last year rated 14th in our rankings (28 January 2013), immediately followed by a run-down of the short-list for the 2013 Lawyer Awards (7 May 2013).

The 19th best-read story for last year was a September report of online dating website eHarmony’s list of reasons why lonely hearts should target lawyers as potential dates (20 September 2013). Apparently it wasn’t all about the money – free legal notepads and interesting law-school stories were cited as big draws. 

Schadenfreude can always be relied on to drive readership, and this year’s best-read list has a fair complement of other peoples’ misfortune or discomfort. Leading the pack – coming in as the third best-read story of last year – was the news that Paul Hastings partner Tom O’Riordan had left the firm after lying about his education and bar qualifications (4 October 2013).

Wince-making as that was, there’s arguably nothing more painfully embarrassing than partners at a leading global firm splurging cash on themselves when high street – and even mid-tier commercial – firms are feeling the pinch. So the news that DLA Piper had spent about $3.1m (£2m) to hire a cruise liner for its annual partnership meeting got readers excited. The story, the fourth most-read of the year (3 May 2013) revealed that the liner in question was the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas, understood to be the second-largest cruise ship in the world. 

Immediately following in fifth place was a February report of claims made in an employment tribunal hearing that Travers Smith had discriminated against a pregnant trainee (15 February 2013). In 13th place was the report of the tribunal agreeing with those allegations (17 May 2013). 

The news of Hogan Lovells IP partner David Latham’s untimely death on the London Underground (19 February 2013) also impacted heavily on our readers, and the follow-up reporting on Hogan Lovells’ review of its stress management policies also drew considerable interest from readers (13 September 2013). 

Only two significant lateral hires made the rankings – the October report on the move of private equity partners Richard Youle and Ian Bagshaw from Linklaters to the London office of White & Case (17 October 2013).

In the same month, SJ Berwin private equity partner Ed Harris left for Hogan Lovells to work with the firm’s global co-head of private equity Alan Greenough and corporate partner Tom Whelan (22 October 2013). The story featured at ninth place on our best-read list. 

At the other end of the spectrum came our tenth best-read story, a March report on newly-qualified salaries and the view from leading recruitment specialists that starting wages should be held at £50,000 (20 March 2013).

Rounding out the list, in 20th place, was the February report that appointments to Queen’s Counsel slipped in 2013 to an all-time low. Only 84 barristers took silk this year, a drop of four on the 2012 figure and the lowest number since the system was reviewed in 2006 (27 February 2013).