Eggars can be choosers

For South East firm Thomas Eggar the opportunity for expansion has been like waiting for the proverbial bus – you wait ages for one to turn up, then two come along at once.

The firm had tried for some time to squeeze into Southampton and has been talking to a slew of local firms about a merger. After these talks failed to come off, plans were made to open an office in the city and it will launch there in April 2008.

And then, bang out of nowhere, came the opportunity to buy Penningtons‘ Newbury office (see story). Luckily for Thomas Eggar, Penningtons’ Newbury contingent had been unhappy with the firm’s new national strategy, and began to seek an exit route.

Et voila, Thomas Eggar’s growth spurt has been given a kick-start.

Watch out, there’s a new Schilling about

Keith Schilling, it looks like you’d better watch out as there’s a new contender for your media libel crown.

This man only set up his solicitors’ firm 18 months ago and has already become a regular legal adviser to former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie (see story).

But his client list does not stop there. In addition to the Blairs, this man’s firm has represented their son Euan, as well as Sean Bean, Simon Cowell, Cat Deeley and more.

Who is this man that may (possibly) get Schilling shaking in his boots? Graham Atkins, the founder of Atkins Solicitors.

Winning against Associated Newspapers is a feather in his cap. He could be one to watch.

HMRC bares all

General Melchett: “And if you come back with the information, Darling will pump you thoroughly in the debriefing room.”

(Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989.)

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, would give anything for those two little CDs that went missing with everyone’s bank details on them.

But even if someone does come back with the information, there won’t be too much debriefing room action. Confidence in the Government’s IT security measures has been lost forever.

That’s not great timing, with negotiations for the identity cards scheme well underway. That’s sure to give Field Fisher Waterhouse some food for thought as it continues to advise the Government on the project.

The HMRC decided it was probably too much bother to encrypt the information on the CDs and could well be in breach of the Data Protection Act (see story). As things stand, the Information Commissioner doesn’t have the power to punish. But pressure will be mounting on the Government to give it more powers.

On the upside, the story has given the data protection lawyers a chance to crawl out of their offices, lit only by a bank of computer screens, and bask in a bit of public limelight for a change.

Charity begins at the office

It’s that time of year when thoughts start turning to caring and sharing. Well, that’s the theory anyway. Most of us are too busy planning our packed party schedule.

But to get you thinking about goodwill to all men, women and children, The Lawyer is looking for reader input on which charities we should support at The Lawyer Awards in the coming years.

There are 25 good causes to choose from, including the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research, Forward UK and Kids Company. Each charity nominated has a web link on our site where you can find out more.

Voting is open until Monday 17 December and the two charities with the most votes will share in cash raised by The Lawyer Awards. The total sum raised is typically in the region of £100,000.

So go on, get voting, and when the time comes, dig deep!

Beware rocketing rates

More than one in-house lawyer attending The Lawyer Summit in Lisbon last week nearly choked on a traditional Portuguese-style custard tart.

Why? The incidents tended to happen when counsel were told that partner hourly rates had rocketed by an average 60 per cent in four years (see story).

“Absolutely outrageous,” exclaimed one in-houser after dislodging the custard tart with a glass of port (it’s from Portugal…).

Choking episodes inevitably increased when it was revealed national firms’ hourly rates for partners had increased by 89 per cent from £185 in 2004 to £350 this year.

An NB for law firms: don’t mention hourly rates while in-housers are eating pastries.