Streamlining trend takes over City

DAVIES Arnold Coopers' decision to axe its Manchester corporate practice is the latest in a series of hard-headed measures by firms looking to streamline and concentrate on their core practice areas.

Last week Simmons & Simmons announced it was relocating its entire seven-strong immigration team to Kingsley Napley – in an amicable arrangement, having decided to shed practices that do not complement its core business.

In December, Herbert Smith closed its shipping practice, because it did not fit in with the firm's strength in litigation, or its aim to expand its corporate practice and arbitration department.

As the dominance of the top five increases, smaller firms are having to review their strategy. This has led to a stream of rumours of mergers, but the collapse of talks between Richards Butler and Theodore Goddard highlights the difficulties that mergers present.

In this week's The Lawyer, Quentin Poole, managing partner of Wragge & Co, argues that middle-tier City firms must “concentrate on market focus and junk some of their practice areas” (page 15).

Poole says “a stunning example” of this, is US firm Wachtell Lipton, the most profitable-per-partner firm in the world, which only handles major litigation, corporate finance and M&A work.