UK - Law Firms A Global Firm Operating At The Center Of The Global Arena

Sunday, January 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: Would you tell our readers something about your background?

Carmedy: I graduated from Bristol University School of Law in 1981 and joined Gouldens, of which I became managing partner in 1999. Gouldens merged with Jones Day in 2003, and I have been the partner-in-charge of that office since the time of the merger.

In my professional life I am an M&A lawyer, and I have also assumed responsibility for the client relationship between the firm and a number of its larger clients. This is particularly important for Jones Day, and I am very glad to report that in the five years that the BTI Consulting Group has conducted its survey concerning client service performance on the part of law firms, Jones Day has ranked number one three times. Attentiveness to the client and its needs is something we take very seriously at Jones Day.

Editor: How do you ensure that the firm's clients receive the same high quality of service throughout the London office and, indeed, throughout the global firm?

Carmedy: The global footprint that Jones Day has established is one of the broadest in the world, with 30 offices around the globe. While inevitably we have more lawyers in a large center such as Washington, DC than in a smaller center such as Sydney, the firm does not operate a satellite culture, and no one office or group of offices dominates the firm. This structure has the effect that no one geographical culture is dominant across the firm. This serves to promote a good understanding of regional and local cultural issues in the way we deliver services. In connection with this particular dynamic, we manage the way we deliver services to clients in four ways: (a) we have a significant number of practice groups across the firm, each with its own leadership; (b) we are organized regionally, with a partner-in-charge of each office; (c) each client is assigned to a designated "client service lawyer" responsible for the connection between the client and the firm's regionally- or practice-based client service leadership; and (d) as a final element to the delivery of services, we have a number of sector specializations where certain senior attorneys are charged with responsibility for ensuring that the way in which we operate is in accordance with the highest standards applicable to that sector. This ensures the delivery of services at the very highest level of quality expected on the part of the firm's clients.

Editor: Jones Day first arrived in London in 1986. Can you give us some background on the evolution of the London market for legal services over the past 20 years?

Carmedy: The single biggest change since the mid-1980s is, of course, globalization. Our clients operate in the global arena, and we must be able to provide, or make provision for, services across the entire spectrum of their operations.

While New York is the largest center of financial activity in the world, much of it is New York-centric. London, however, is the largest center for truly international legal work in the world, and accordingly, it is London that has felt the effects of globalization more keenly. All of the large international law firms in the world have their origins in the U.S. or in London. The principal problem faced by the London-origin firms concerns access to the U.S. The U.S. market for legal services is extremely competitive, and it is very difficult for a non-U.S.-origin firm to enter that market. London is very different. Because it is such an international center, non-UK firms find it much easier to enter and then compete in the London legal market. Over the past 20 years many American firms have taken this step, including Jones Day.

There are two basic models for a U.S.-origin firm to follow in London. The first is to start from scratch with lateral hires, the second to merge with an existing London operation. Jones Day has chosen the second model, and, indeed, has done it twice. The original Jones Day London office was the result of a merger in 1986 with a New York-origin firm, Surrey & Morse, which had a London presence. That gave the firm an established operation, albeit a small one. Then, in 2003, the Jones Day-Gouldens merger resulted in a very substantial City of London presence and the ability to provide a full range of services to the UK market and in support of the internationally based transactions that are conducted in London. The 2003 merger is certainly one of the largest to date involving firms from the two jurisdictions, and has been a great success right from the start, creating the seventh largest law firm in the world. The principal difference between the ad hoc lateral route and the merger route is that operations established on the lateral basis tend to be very dependent on work referred from the U.S., whereas the merger route inevitably produces an office which is more directly engaged with the London market and offering a full range of services.

Editor: I gather that the merger has opened up a number of opportunities for Jones Day. Would you tell us about some of them?

Carmedy: The essential rationale for the merger from Jones Day's perspective was the ability to service its enormous portfolio of clients with a full range of legal resources residing in the UK. For London, the merger offered great professional opportunities for its lawyers and a stronger client base. In addition, the introduction of new sector specializations to the London office has been of great benefit to both sides of the merger. We have worked on several major joint venture undertakings, as well as M&A transactions, in the oil and gas sector involving British and Russian enterprises, with the specific oil and gas expertise coming from the Jones Day side of the merger, and the specific transactional expertise coming from the Gouldens side. One particular M&A transaction handled just after the merger was the largest deal of its kind in Europe in 2003.

On the restructuring side, Jones Day is one of the top three restructuring firms in the U.S. While historically we have always had good restructuring lawyers in London, the merger really built on our market presence. Today, the Jones Day-London operation is indeed a heavyweight in this practice area, and its projects extend all across Europe.

With respect to private equity, a number of funds represented by Jones Day in the U.S. have launched ambitious acquisition programs, both in London and globally. This has materially increased Jones Day's representation in the London private equity market.

Overall, the Jones Day global footprint adds tremendous value to the London office in terms of attracting work in the global marketplace. What sets the Jones Day-London operation apart from every other London legal operation, whether of U.S. or UK origin, is the combined presence that Jones Day has in the U.S., the UK and globally.

Editor: What have been the key developments in the London market in the last five years?

Carmedy: The last five years has been one of the most challenging periods in recent times in the London legal community. The year 2000 marked the end of the dot-com boom and one of the longest bull markets in history. The immediate consequence was a substantial cutback in legal work, particularly in the securities and M&A areas. The challenge over the past five years, accordingly, has been to develop a more cyclically resistant operating platform, one that is capable of dealing with changing market conditions. Jones Day-London has been singularly successful in this, and much of the credit is due to the really astonishing breadth of practice and the variety of areas of expertise that the global firm possesses and can bring to bear in any of the legal markets in which the firm functions.

One of the things that has occurred over the past five years - and something that is probably connected with the end of the bull market - has been an increasing willingness on the part of clients to move their work from firm to firm. Even if they are satisfied with the quality of the work, they will move as a consequence of price. Clients insist on transparent pricing today; we see this as an opportunity rather than as a challenge.

Editor: Maintaining the quality of your work product is obviously a challenge too. How do you assure that Jones Day-London continues to recruit and retain the best law graduates and young lateral hires.

Carmedy: We have always been well placed in this regard and throughout our history have attracted young lawyers of the very highest quality, both new graduates and young laterals. Since the merger, the firm has become even more attractive because of the breadth of international experience it offers, together with its superb reputation for the quality of its work and the variety of its legal disciplines and practice groups.

In addition, the culture of Jones Day-London, which reflects that of the global firm, is very important in attracting the best and brightest of these young lawyers.

It is a culture that is rooted in high performance and in the high job satisfaction that goes along with that performance. We give our young lawyers a great deal of client contact and responsibility against a background of one-on-one partner supervision. They work hard to measure up to that degree of trust, and the client is the beneficiary of a very high standard of legal excellence as a result. It is a demanding culture in that it demands the highest standards of excellence, but it is one that produces not only a great deal of client satisfaction but also a considerable amount of self-esteem and personal satisfaction among those fortunate enough to be part of the enterprise.

In 2005 here in the UK a respected legal research organization run by The Lawyer, a leading legal trade publication, published a comprehensive survey based on feedback from recruits of law firms with significant operations in the UK. The results ranked Jones Day first in quality of work and client contact and in the top-ranked firms with regard to job satisfaction and social life.

On a final note, I would also say that this culture permeates all of the firm's offices and is by no means confined to Jones Day-London. It is a single firm, operating globally across some 30 offices.

Editor: You are very fortunate to be associated with one of the finest global firms with an American origin and one that has transformed itself dramatically over the last 40 years.

Carmedy: You have heard people talk of the "Global Twelve," four of which are UK-origin firms. I do not see how a firm can claim to be truly global if it does not have a significant presence in a place which constitutes 60 percent of the world's economy, namely the United States. In light of Jones Day's presence in major business centers throughout the U.S. and its international offices, I suspect that the number of truly global firms is rather smaller than twelve.

Please email the interviewee at rtcarmedy@jonesday.com with questions about this interview.