It was clear that the postcrisis terrain for firms will be different – the new “new” – but prospects for 2012 are not looking good. The transactional train has finally been derailed and with it a core driver of law firm revenue and growth. Some very senior lawyers are wondering what they will be doing come the new year.
More than merely offering referral options to their clients as they expand internationally, law firms increasingly need to offer new skills. There are, say General Counsel, still significant opportunities for their domestic advisers to assist them as their businesses grow abroad but in order to seize them they must offer more than mere hand holding. They must understand their specific business issues, offer the right connections, and help them to manage the international challenges they face.
As well as bringing threats, recent years have shown that a crisis can also bring welcome opportunities for change. The challenge for lawyers is, of course, in understanding how best to navigate away from the first while embracing the second.
This summer has seen a major test of Spain’s banking system following the restructuring of the country’s savings banks (cajas) with the listing of two new banks – the first major Spanish IPOs since 2007 – with the risk of failure potentially catastrophic for many within the finance sector.
The prospective bailout of Portugal by the “troika” of the European Union (EU), European Community Bank (ECB) and IMF (International Monetary Fund) may not be cause for celebration but it at least brings certainty to the country’s finances, say lawyers in Lisbon. It requires however the newly elected Social Democratic-led Government of Pedro Passos Coelho to complete an ambitious trick, to overcome vested business and political interests and achieve a dramatic financial turnaround.