Magic Circle

2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGCheerio, old chap! This week brings news of bonuses — and a salary “unfreeze” — in the New York office of Allen & Overy.
Allen & Overy — a global mega-firm with over $2 billion in annual revenue, headquartered in London but with a worldwide footprint — is making a go of it here in the United States. And, as reflected in this latest news, A&O intends to play with the big boys in New York. They’re paying market-level bonuses this year.
And, effective January 2010, they’re paying market-level salaries. The increase in salaries undoes the salary freeze from earlier this year. Green shoots?
But there is a catch. Read the full memo, from New York managing partner Kevin O’Shea, after the jump.

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outsourcing biglaw aba tsunami.gifIt appears that Magic Circle firms have fallen in love with outsourcing. Most American associates will hope that like Mad Cow disease, the outsourcing craze stays on English side of the ocean. The Lawyer reports:

Allen & Overy (A&O) has become the first magic circle firm to outsource legal work as an increasing number of UK firms embrace legal process outsourcing (LPO) in a bid to reduce their overheads.
The firm has partnered with LPO provider Integreon to outsource basic litigation document review to teams in New York and Mumbai, in what could generate a 30-50 per cent cost saving.

Anybody think we’ll see some geographic hypocrisy in the comment thread? Outsourcing to New York = good, outsourcing to Mumbai = bad? Or will everybody simply agree that outsourcing = apocalyptic?
After the jump, The Lawyer has an excellent chart that shows us where British firms stand with regards to outsourcing.

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allen overy logo.jpgCould transatlantic law firm mergers become the hot new trend? Last week brought news of merger talks between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells. And now we’re hearing rumors of a possible merger involving Allen & Overy, a top U.K. firm and a member of the prestigious Magic Circle.
This is not, of course, the first time we’ve heard such buzz. A year ago, the word on the street was that A&O was thinking about getting with Shearman & Sterling.
For the record, Allen & Overy denies the latest rumors. Here’s the firm’s official statement, responding to an inquiry from Above the Law:

As a global player who has been quite open about the importance of the US market, we are often subject to such rumours. We have openly stated for a number of years now that we have the desire to expand in the US market and as such we would consider any opportunities that may arise with a suitable US partner. That remains the case, but at the current time we are not in any merger talks whatsoever with a US partner. Your [reports seem] to refer to a global call our management held with all partners recently on our current view on strategy, though your questions below do not reflect the content of what was said whatsoever.

Find out what they were reacting to, after the jump.

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Letter from London Queen.JPGEd. note: The legal world is much bigger than New York, or Washington, or even the United States. Welcome to Letter from London, a weekly dispatch from the other side of the pond. Our U.K. correspondent, Isaac Smith, will expose ATL readers to the latest goings-on in the London legal world. You can reach Isaac by email, at isaacsmithlondon@googlemail.com.

The G20 summit, accompanied by its anti-capitalist sideshow, arrives in London this week – and UK Big Law is feeling a little scared.

Law firms are warning employees not to wear suits on Wednesday or Thursday so as to avoid being targeted in the violent protests planned around London’s financial district.

Which provokes an interesting question: how ghetto does a corporate lawyer need to dress in order to avoid arousing suspicion as to their true identity?

We’ll soon find out.

It all seems a bit unfair, really. It’s not as if lawyers got the super big bonuses. And now their salaries are actually falling. If those nasty anti-capitalists had bothered to have a quick scan of The Lawyer last Wednesday, they’d have seen that Shearman & Sterling’s London office had followed Freshfields in cutting newly qualified associate salaries by 8%.

Are we going back in time? More after the jump.

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Letter from London Queen.JPGEd. note: The legal world is much bigger than New York, or Washington, or even the United States. Welcome to Letter from London, a weekly dispatch from the other side of the pond. Our U.K. correspondent, Isaac Smith, will expose ATL readers to the latest goings-on in the London legal world. You can reach Isaac by email, at isaacsmithlondon@googlemail.com.

On his recent trip to the US, Prime Minister Brown presented President Obama with an ornamental pen holder, carved from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet.

In return, Obama gave Brown some DVDs — which, it was revealed on Wednesday, don’t work in UK DVD players.

Why humiliate us like this?

Maybe Obama was angry at the UK because London-based firm Clifford Chance laid off 35 business support staff from its New York and DC offices at the end of last year. But news of that only emerged last week — after Obama purchased the DVDs.

Perhaps Obama has a thing against the British. We do, after all, “sound gay and smell like Indian food” — as one poster on last Monday’s column observed. But your new president doesn’t seem the sort of chap to be burdened by petty prejudices — aside from, of course, his hatred of the disabled.

Or could it be that Obama is pissed off that he had to meet Brown instead of Tony Blair? Yeah, that makes sense. Americans f**king love Tony Blair.

Something you might not know about Tony Blair, after the jump.

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Letter from London Queen.JPGEd. note: The legal world is much bigger than New York, or Washington, or even the United States. Welcome to the inaugural installment of “Letter from London,” a weekly dispatch from the other side of the pond. Our U.K. correspondent, Isaac Smith, will expose ATL readers to the latest goings-on in the London legal world. You can reach Isaac by email, at isaacsmithlondon@googlemail.com.

Firms in the U.S. often try to keep their layoffs nice and quiet, with instructions not to communicate with the media or the odd scare tactic… Cousins, you’re not alone.

A recent meeting between DLA Piper’s UK management team and employee reps over its stingy redundancy package got off to a bad start when London Managing Partner Catherine Usher pleaded for “ideas on how we can keep the information confidential” — words which were leaked, along with the rest of the minutes, to just about every legal news publication in London last week.

Some quick background: DLA, which launched its second redundancy consultation in January (with criteria including number of sick days taken), is paying out the statutory minimum to UK-based lawyers who get the chop. This equates to one week’s pay (capped at £350 a week) for each year’s service. By way of comparison, Linklaters is said to be offering three weeks’ pay (at the full rate, without any cap) for every year with the firm, plus three months’ notice. DLA’s US arm is also being considerably more generous.

More of the DLA minutes:

Meeting begins with Usher urging associates to stop leaking things to the press.

Employee rep points out link between firm’s less-than-generous redundancy package and press leaks.

Heated exchanges ensue.

Hapless HR manager tries to pacify the crowd, but her misguided recommendations that (a) associates go out for some morale-boosting team drinks and (b) the fired ones use an “an advice line” which provides “guidance about the impact of redundancy and what to do next” only make situation worse.

Anger boils over and Usher and HR Manager set upon by frenzied mob.

Ok, that last bit may not have happened.

Addition London news, after the jump.

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British aristocrat lawyer.JPGDespite the difficult state of the legal industry, a British research group has found that the profession is still an elite profession that attracts blue-blooded talent. The results of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation elitism research are published in The Lawyer:

Research conducted for The Lawyer by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at Bristol University, taking wealth to be an indicator of social standing, compared the average monthly family income for lawyers born in 1958 with those born in 1970.

Family income isn’t the only measure of being “elite.” For instance, the study doesn’t take into account the serf to family member ratio of young future lawyers, or if one can put the writings of Dostoyevsky in the proper historical context.

Nonetheless, the results from across the pond are pretty striking, and makes one wonder if there are any class barriers that American lawyers must overcome.

More details after the jump.

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london.gifLast week, we mentioned that Linklaters was gearing up to conduct massive layoffs.

Today, The Lawyer is reporting that 270 Linklaters employees are out of a job:

Magic circle firm Linklaters has confirmed that between 100 and 120 of its City lawyers will lose their jobs as part of its so-called New World strategy, while 130 to 150 members of business services staff will also be affected.

“New World Strategy” indeed.

Linklaters is a large firm, but 270 people represent deep cuts:

The London cuts will translate to 4.8 per cent of the firm’s total workforce while 4.2 per cent of its lawyer headcount will be slashed.

Is there a country where the legal industry is thriving? Have Rosetta Stone, will travel.

Linklaters: 270 London jobs to go [The Lawyer]

Earlier: Magic Circle Meltdown: Layoffs at Allen & Overy, Linklaters, and Clifford Chance

pacino plays biglaw associate.JPGBack in the eighties, the popular myth was that all Manhattan attorneys had a leather briefcase, a good blue pen, and a Scarface-sized bowl of cocaine on their desk. Sadly, by the time I got to Biglaw the briefcase had been replaced by a canvas bag with a gaudy firm emblem emblazoned on the side like the mark of the beast. The nice pen was replaced with a desktop computer designed to block The Onion. And the coke was replaced by the marvelous ephedrine they used to put into Red Bull.

But perhaps London attorneys are poised to relive the NYC glory days. A new study reports that hard drug use is on the rise in the U.K.:

One partner claims he knows “people who just make a phone call from their office and nip down to reception to pick up their delivery” — something that happens in every big law firm, he claims.

The survey, by the magazine Legal Business, also says that there is evidence of “cocaine clubs” in law firms’ basements and of partner-led games of poker and taking cocaine with clients. But it also finds that law firms are ignorant or indifferent to the problem. One lawyer is quoted: “I spanked £100,000 on cocaine in one year and no one noticed.

If a partner ever invited me to a coke and poker party I would still be in rehab a practicing attorney today.

The key similarity between Britain today and the America of yesterday seems to be the total professional indifference to drug use:

The legal profession, unlike other classic professions such as medicine and teaching, does not give a damn, as long as you are profitable.

Well, nobody wants a coked-up doctor trying to save you from a cocaine overdose. And nobody wants a coke-head teaching your kids. But if a little nose candy is going to make you work longer, why would partners particularly care what you do on the side?

Because you could die? Because partners care about your health? Right. You could be the last unicorn and you’d still bill 100 hours a week if there was work to be done.

Substance abuse problems that span the ocean after the jump.

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map pretty.JPGWith all the doom and gloom about the economy, it’s easy to forget that some law firms are doing really, really well.

American Lawyer has come out with their Global 100 rankings (subscription) report. Am Law reports that most stable global firms are based across the pond:

After madly shedding partners, doubling-down their bets on foreign offices, and tightening their management controls, the global Magic Circle practices–Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters–look a little better-dressed than many of their rivals in the United States. The irony is that the English firms have succeeded by following the lesson of their American peers: They’ve hedged their bets. For U.S. firms, in the past that has meant a healthy dose of litigation and bankruptcy work to balance a corporate shortfall. For the British, the strategy has been geographic: spreading their risk across several continents.

Whatever. Maybe someday you’ll be able to buy back an undesirable position in Yorktown.

The U.S.A. is still well represented when it comes to profits per partner:

amlaw ppp.JPG

Cadwalader’s inclusion on this list is … offensive (the list is based on 2007 numbers), but how about Quinn Emanuel! One of five firms worldwide with PPP over $3,000,000.

The firms with the most revenue after the jump

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