The trouble with best friends…

The ‘best friends’ moniker that Slaughter and May uses to describe its alliance of likeminded firms has always had that cute ring of the playground about it. Only Slaughters could get away with it really.

But the trouble with best friends is that they’re all individuals and sometimes they pal up with the naughty kids on the other side of the playground. And sometimes they talk behind your back with other kids – some of whom you don’t really like.

Eversheds, for example, had a whole bunch of its mates signed up to service Tyco, but that didn’t stop one of them, Finnish firm Fennica, dumping it for a merger with Bird & Bird (see Feature, page 16).

Eversheds would have liked a merger with Fennica itself, but the UK firm failed to sell itself as well as it did with another Tyco friend, South African firm Routledges Modise, which it did merge with.

Apparently Eversheds was a bit surprised when Fennica announced its merger with Bird & Bird, suggesting that the friends weren’t quite as close as they thought. Which is why, as a rule, Eversheds doesn’t really go in for this best friends lark.

Like other firms that aspire to global coverage, it wants Eversheds offices, not buddies. But in the wake of its revolutionary relationship with Tyco, Eversheds is now very process-driven, and not all firms are willing to sacrifice their art to be a cog in the Eversheds machine.

Which is where Slaughters, Hengeler Mueller and its buddies are coming from. But Spanish best friend Uría Menéndez is pursuing an aggressive global strategy, opening in 15 cities around the world.

Uría will need a few machine-like processes to stop its offices growing remote and a source at the Spanish firm confided that the alliance is not necessarily as close as Slaughters likes to make out.

There are no fatal fissures between Slaughters, Uría or Hengeler yet, but it’s fun to watch Slaughters playing the field while the German firm commits. You can see how the glue that once bound these firms could loosen.

These are the challenges that Beachcroft faces (see story, left). With the added complication of finding friends on the same panels as it. Good luck guys.