Rich pickings for £1m   lawyers
  ( by Colin Adamson, London Evening Standard, 9 March 1999)

   The revelation that partners in a London legal   firm are set to break the £1 million-a-year
   salary barrier - with other firms in the "Magic   Circle" group of City law firms a mere brief or
   two away from similar rewards - reflects a   burgeoning new world for the legal profession
   to exploit.

   At present, only a   handful of top lawyers   from one company, the   senior partners in
   Slaughter and May, have   reached such lucrative   heights, according to a   survey by the legal
   newspaper, The Lawyer.   But the journal estimates   they will soon be joined   by many others and the   16 per cent increase in   business that has pushed earnings of the leading   100 legal firms through   the £5 billion barrier for   the first time is set to   continue into the next century.

   Most of Slaughter and   May's success has been   drawn from the familiar world provided by
   acquisitions and mergers, the most profitable   arm of commercial law, but the Internet,
   information technology and the exploding   compensation culture is providing fresh fields
   to conquer, according the legal observers. The   most popular targets are:


   The drive to get on the Internet is producing a   flood of work, and both Bird & Bird and
   Olswang reaped the benefit in 1998-99. Bird &   Bird's turnover rose by almost 27 per cent to
   £23.5 million and its profits per partner by   almost £40,000 to £384,000. Olswang's
   turnover increased by almost 30 per cent. Its   profits per partner jumped by £28,000 to
   £371,000 and even better times are ahead.   Putting your business on the Internet may
   increase sales around the world, but it can also   leave you open to litigation. There are complex
   problems with contracts, negligence,   copyright, defamation and crime.


   Anyone who fails to provide a proper service   because of a year 2000 computer problem
   could be a target for personal liability suits -   hardware and software sellers, suppliers,
   manufacturers, insurers and so on. One broker,   Merrill Lynch, with more than a little touch of
   relish, believes the worldwide cost could reach   $1 trillion (£600 billion). Millions of pounds are
   being invested in providing legal safety nets as   insurers, who fear claims which could rival the
   asbestos and environmental costs of the late   1980s, add clauses to policies to exclude Y2K


   The music business is undergoing   revolutionary changes, few of them within the
   industry's control, thanks to advances in   Internet technology. Britain's music industry is
   worth almost £4 billion a year and almost rivals   whisky as our most profitable export.

   With so much at stake, the major recording   labels are seeking top legal advice on how to
   beat the surfing pirates. The same applies to   the film and television industries. The makers
   of the cult cartoon series South Park recently   engaged London law firm Simmons &
   Simmons to combat a massive increase in   counterfeit and pirated material.

   Licensing characters from films and television   is big business. Deals tied into the latest Star
   Wars movie The Phantom Menace are   expected to yield about £2.5 billion - more than
   twice the expected box-office takings   worldwide. Italo Cerullo, a spokesman for
   Copyright Promotions, which handles licensing   for Star Wars among many others, says
   counterfeiting and piracy are an increasing   problem. He added that the company will
   "come down on the producers of illegal Star   Wars merchandise like a ton of bricks".

   The copyright laws have also provided rich   pickings for British lawyers engaged by pop
   stars like Spandau Ballet. After a 21-day High   Court hearing, the singer Tony Hadley, the
   drummer John Keeble and the bass player   Steve Norman lost their claim against
   songwriter Gary Kemp and Reformation, his   publishing company, for a share of the
   royalties from the band's hits. Other big-name   groups who have also gone down the litigation
   route include Oasis and The Smiths.


   Lawyers are benefiting from the Diana industry,   particularly the rash of undesirable mementos
   and rip-offs that have followed in the two years   since her death. There is also a growing
   clamour for increased personal privacy and in   particular for protection against media


   Another enormous area costing £6 billion a   year in pay-outs and legal fees. A whole new
   army of specialist lawyers is now cashing in on   highly lucrative High Court damage claims by
   people claiming personal injury through   negligence, and the explosion of racial and
   sexual equality cases, many brought before   industrial tribunals on the flimsiest of grounds.

   Main targets are the NHS, the armed forces,   and the police. The scale of the awards was
   highlighted a few days ago by revelations that a   series of compensation cases ranging from sex
   discrimination to a farmer whose sheep were   scared by low-flying RAF aircraft cost the
   Ministry of Defence a record £76 million last   year.


   There's nothing high-earning lawyers enjoy   more than working out the fine contractual
   details for fellow City high-flyers, whose   salaries and conditions mirror their own
   success. Without their zealous attention to   minutiae and knowledge of case histories, there
   would be no spectacular golden handshakes.

   Ironically, the self-same experts are also   drawing up the defences that have allowed City
   bosses to shed hundreds of brokers, analysts   and traders over the past year without fighting
   industrial tribunal cases. On a broader front,   there has been plenty of new work responding
   to the dictates of Brussels.


 Ever since the BCCI and Barings collapses   shook the banking world, insolvency law has been booming. To many, specialists in this   field are unsung heroes, who quietly get on   with trying to save hundreds, and often   thousands, of jobs and help creditors recover   their money. With the new emphasis on rescue   and restructuring, companies in distress and  banks are increasingly hiring these experts.