The magic circle will disappear within a decade, industry leaders predict

Seven more transatlantic mergers, the end of the magic circle and the disappearance of 25 of the current top 100 by 2018 are just some of the wide-ranging predictions made in today’s crystal ball-gazing issue of The Lawyer.

Will Lawes
Will Lawes

The 13-page feature contains projections on several key sections of the market and predictions from the likes of Linklaters managing partner Simon Davies, Nationwide’s deputy group general counsel Claire Morris and respected industry commentator and consultant Alan Hodgart.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer senior partner Will Lawes makes several of the boldest predictions, suggesting that within a decade “one top 50 UK law firm will sell itself for cash or do an IPO” and that “one existing Swiss Verein structure merger will have collapsed”.

Lawes is joined in the feature by ranks of other law firm leaders who all offer their views on the future shape of the market.

Some of the pithiest predictions relate to future levels of debt at firms, with the head of professional services industry group at Barclays, Tom Wood, claiming that by 2018,  “there will be a handful of high-profile failures dominated by highly leveraged firms”.

Former Barclays insider now Kerma Partners consultant William Arthur puts it even more bluntly: “At least five firms will have gone spectacularly bust.”

simon davies linklaters
Simon Davies, Linklaters

The extended feature, which marks the end of the summer break and heralds the start of the autumn term, includes insightful comments from a wide range on in-house lawyers and also looks at the growing importance of Asia and in particular China to the global legal services market.

“China’s legal industry will be fully opened in the next decade,” argues David Liu, Jun He managing partner. “Foreign firms will be able to enter into joint ventures and the regulatory framework will move closer to that of Hong Kong.”

Other predictions in today’s issue include the claim that at least one firm will be brought down by a cyber security leak; by 2023 there will be just three global insurance firms; and that women will still represent less than 20 per cent of partners among UK top 20 firms.

For more on this story watch our interview with Allen & Overy’s senior partner David Morley in which he sets out his vision for the next decade.