Hello and welcome to the Fides Weekly Update. Take a look at this week’s key trends, moves and developments in legal and compliance.
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1). Market volatility remains low even with fear of Trump sparking trade wars
US President Donald Trump’s trade conversations with the EU and China have kept tensions high for investors, however statistics show that this week has produced the lowest levels of volatility over the last month.
It was reported this week that Trump agreed with EU officials not to impose car tariffs, which eased the worry of a transatlantic trade war and brought a short respite to the US President’s recent hard stance on trade restrictions and retaliatory tariffs.
Dealings between the US and China, however, could still initiate a trade war, as tariffs remain in place on $200 billion of Chinese goods to take effect from September.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has voiced concerns over the disputes between the two major economies, estimating that “a sustained trade conflict could cost the global economy nearly $500 billion, knocking growth by half a percentage point by 2020”.
This only adds to the risk of unpredictable markets as we enter the August trading period, arguably the most volatile of the year, where lower amounts of trading can often exaggerate price swings.
Reuters reports “the prospect of a trade war does worry investors, who see it as the biggest risk to markets since the 2012 euro zone debt crisis”, although “even those particularly worried have done little to protect their portfolios.”
Overall there seems to be a sign of relief from investors, as talks of a trade war diminish. Whilst US tariffs remain in place for China, markets have not yet responded to this, with the bullish market outlook continuing for the foreseeable future.
2). City disputes market reaches record high
2017 represented a record high in terms of both fee income and headcount for London’s largest 50 litigation practices, according to research released this week by The Lawyer.
These practices generated $2.44bn (£1.86bn) in 2017, after an 11.2 per cent increase in litigation turnover growing from $2.19bn (£1.67bn) the previous year.
In terms of headcount, these practices boast more than 3,000 lawyers between them, the largest recorded in the market’s history. This had grown 6.1% from 2016’s total of 2,935, and 25% from the number of litigation lawyers in London in 2013.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer remains the City’s largest litigation practice, generating $248m (£188m) in revenue, which represented an 11.8 per cent increase from the previous year’s $222m (£169m) at a revenue per partner of $5.2m (£4m).
The firm’s involvement in the £14bn MasterCard interchange class-action, as well as acting for embattled German car manufacturer VW throughout its emissions scandal both contributed to the firm’s strong performance last year.
Last year also saw some of the highest-profile US firms are adding considerably to their litigation headcount in London, with Kirkland & Ellis, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Dechert all adding to their practices.
Indeed, earlier this week saw Mayer Brown bulk up its white-collar practice with a double hire from Norton Rose Fulbright.
The majority of litigation lawyers believe the market will remain stable, according to a London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA) survey. Factors cited for this include Brexit, with resulting currency fluctuations causing many international clients with cross-border contracts to seek advice on potential contractual disputes in London, as well as pre-existing disputes and a rise in investigations.
3). Movers & Shakers
Pearson’s new legal panel count with firms such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Pinsent Masons.
Head of Red Lion Chambers Max Hill QC has been promoted as the director of public prosecutors (DPP), position lead by Alison Saunders.
Sachin Kerur, head of the Middle East for Pinsent Masons is leaving the firm to become the head of Dubai and Abu Dhabi bases for Reed Smith.
Colin Stretch, Facebook’s top lawyer since 2013, set to step down at end of year
Sam Eastwood and Jason Hungerford set to join NRF’s city office next month
Office Openings & Closings