Loath as one is to shoehorn last June’s referendum vote into everything, the prospect of a hard Brexit is suddenly concentrating the minds of UK law firms.
We’re not going to see the wholesale shift of gravity to Frankfurt and Paris, but getting a balanced European offering that is sufficiently responsive to new trade structures has become a major headache for law firms.
For the moment, they’re still investing. Research for The Lawyer European 100 report – out this week – underlines how much Continental Europe is still a major draw for UK and US firms alike. Goodwin picked up much of KWM Paris; DLA Piper is frolicking in Scandinavia, and Germany top of everyone’s shopping list. Yes, it’s a congested market, but it’s a rich one. No wonder the US firms keep coming; Clydes launched there last year and Ince and Pinsents each opened second offices in 2016.
Many of City heavyweights have reversed out of lower-paying jurisdictions. But there is still room for the odd quirk in coverage. Linklaters is in Lisbon; Clifford Chance is still in Prague; A&O is in Bratislava. (I mourn the days when A&O had an outpost in Albania. Heady times.)
In their last promotions rounds, the largest 10 international firms in Europe collectively made up 125 new partners – an increase from 104 the previous year. But while many firms with a mature presence in key jurisdictions – either through merger or long-ago launches – are growing their talent organically, the lateral market is still febrile. Poaching the right partner is still the preferred way to do business fast.
This week we’re focusing on the key trends on the Continent as part of our European 100 2017 launch. Over this week we’ll be highlighting the firms you need to know about, their talent strategies, and their respective positioning to help you get a sense of activities across different jurisdictions. If you’re in the market for recruitment on the Continent, you’d better read it.