Why Lovells is like buses…

… You wait ages for a Lovells story then two come at once. (Boom boom). First up, Italian private equity head Andrea Accornero is leaving to join the Milan office of Simmons & Simmons. See story.

Second, the firm has slashed its partnership promotions to just 18 this year from a bumper crop of 31 last. See story. And blame it on the timing, but we think we’ve found a link.

For the private equity group, Accornero’s departure is the third exit of a private equity chief at the firm in three years. The first, in 2005, saw German practice head Oliver Felsenstein defect to Clifford Chance, followed by international private equity head Marco Compagnoni splitting for the London office of Manhattan’s Weil Gotshal & Manges the year after. To misquote Oscar Wilde, to lose one private equity chief…

On the promotions front, while new partner numbers have been slashed across the board, the one exception is the firm’s intellectual property, media and technology (IPMT) group, which gained the greatest share of the new partners, with four.

That’s right: IP got more than corporate.

The promotions follow the recent hire of Wragge & Co patent litigation partner Adam Cooke, Lovells’ fifth IP lateral hire in 12 months. See story.

As managing partner David Harris told us at the time: “The expansion of the IP practice is a strategically important part of the firm’s business plan.”

With the firm’s private equity group in dire straits, is a new focus emerging?

Sex at Slaughters

Sex isn’t an issue at Slaughter and May, the firm says – which is good news for three out of the four new partners that are female. See story.

Interviewed in The Lawyer this week, practice partner-in-waiting Paul Olney said the fact that the firm’s new corporate head, Frances Murphy, is a woman is “not important,” while new executive partner Graham White agreed that “the fact that Frances is a woman is not an issue”. See feature.

Hmmm, and the fact that Margaret Thatcher was a woman was “not important”. As editor Catrin Griffiths noted in her leader late last month, women drop out of hardcore transactional departments like corporate faster than fellas. Corporate-heavy Macfarlanes promoted no women this year, for example, and of the top 10 firms in Blighty, Slaughters is the only one with a female head of corporate.

Sex is an issue. So, hats off to Slaughters for making the world of law a slightly better place. Albeit accidentally.

Log on to our Partnership 2008 blog for more here.

Mo Money Mo Problems
Mohamed Al Fayed’s legal team has been ordered to stop pursuing alternative reasons for the deaths of Princess Diana and his son Dodi. See story.

The ruling concludes the decade-long Diana death saga, in which Al Fayed spent more than £3m on barristers for the inquest alone, paying both for his own lawyers, led by Michael Mansfield QC of Tooks Chambers, and those representing his Ritz hotel in Paris, led by Ian Croxford QC of Wilberforce Chambers. Each will take home more than £630,000 for the 30-week period.

There were also the barrister costs of the £3.7m Stevens Inquiry – the police probe into the deaths in August 1997 – and those for barristers for those outside of the main group on the actual inquest.

“The most important thing is that the jury has come up that this is not an accident, it’s a murder,” Al Fayed said last night. “And this gives me great satisfaction because it proved my point that my son and Diana were murdered.”

Although actually it didn’t. The jury instead returned a verdict of unlawful killing, holding that the pair were killed due to the “gross negligence” of driver Henri Paul and the paparazzi. See story.

Or in other words, after 10 years and over £10m spent on lawyers, it believes the pair were killed when her drunken driver crashed while being pursued by photographers – something the rest of us concluded in 1997.

Middle East holds promise

The Lawyer’s Partnership 2008 blog yesterday featured comment that at both Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance, the latest promotions are evidence of them banking on the Middle East to help carry them through the credit crunch.

Not 24 hours later, and Herbert Smith announces it has signed an exclusive association with Saudi Arabian firm Al Ghazzawi Professional Association (GPA). See story.

Herbies has been building its Middle Eastern presence for about a year (along with everyone else) but it is one of relatively few to have hooked up with a Saudi law firm.

Its success will depend on how well connected founder Dr Talal Amin Al Ghazzawi is to the Saudi royal family, commented one observer. Given his presence at the head of a number of public companies we’ll presume he’s pretty well sorted in that regard.

A&O vs CC: Banking is back

Today was the big Allen & Overy versus Clifford Chance face-off on partner promotions.

And the winner? Clifford Chance’s associates were marginally more successful with 35 new partners compared with A&O’s 32.

But both were pretty stingy. And remarkably similar in their trends. At both firms, promotions are down on last year. At both firms, London suffered while the international offices prospered. And at both firms, banking is back on top as the most promoted practice after corporate was last year.

And they both announced their promotions within minutes of each other! There must be something fishy going on! Call the OFT! Call the Competition Commission!

Note to all libel lawyers: we jest.