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September 25, 2007

London law merger market: so what's the problem, U.S. firms?

And will you know what to do once you get there? London-based Legal Week, armed with a survey, reports that "US firms target UK mergers as battle for London hots up". WAC? still sees London-U.S. law merger market "movement" as slow and reluctant because it takes cautionary lessons, for example, from some unprofitable and often ill-conceived attempts by U.S. firms to become players in Russia twenty years ago and China a decade later. Now, for once, lawyer risk-aversion is an asset. But The London legal market? Yes, London's off-the-chart expensive these days. But as stable as you'd want. Entering it poses cultural issues and barriers even sophisticated Yanks don't pick up on with any clarity for months

and usually years--Brits are different, folks--and most large American firms don't even know what those problems really are. But they sense them.

That's smart, sort of. We at WAC? have been involved personally and professionally with law firm mergers: all dressed up, and nothing to do, is certainly something to avoid.

Let's assume American firms know strategically how to enter London and all the more inviting UK/Europe legal marketplaces and have the resources to do it. So what's the problem? My answer: U.S. firms know they aren't culturally saavy and secure enough to go into the UK/Europe, and they are right to think that way. Note, via a hand-off from the vigilant Ed. at Blawg Review, a post which not only got us thinking about this but reflects the somewhat different sentiments of HMPC's overworked co-founder and international tax diva Julie McGuire two weeks ago at a meeting I attended in Pennsylvania. However, its author, Bruce MacEwen, said it first and, as usual, likely better than anyone else could have: "London Calling: But Who's Ready to Dance?".

Posted by JD Hull at September 25, 2007 11:58 PM

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