From the archives: 2000 – The managing partner who predicted the Great Recession

The latest article from our trawl of the archives comes from January 2000. It was the dawn of the new millennium and lawyers were in prediction mode for what the future would bring.

The then-managing partner of Osborne Clarke, Leslie Perrin, had some thoughts as to what would happen the next decade – some of them accurate. Others, not so much.

In particular, Perrin predicts a 2005 recession which will be “akin to the Black Death.”

Black Death

He was out by three years, but in 2008 a major global recession hit, wiping out firms such as Halliwells, Cobbetts and Dewey & LeBoeuf, while many others were only rescued by mergers.

Perrin also correctly predicted that “US firms will thrive” and that mergers with UK firms would become more common.

He suggested that insurance-focused law firms would be “driven to insolvency by their clients and bought out to serve as in-house teams.” While not entirely accurate, there has since been massive consolidation in the insurance legal market, as Davies Arnold Cooper merged into Beachcroft and Clyde & Co took over Barlow Lyde & Gilbert.

On a less serious note, Perrin said that “The Bar Council will have focused fully on its principal business of promoting Edwardian music hall entertainments, while The Law Society will have has its regulatory powers stripped away by a government driven to despair by its sheer incompetence and its inability to speak for lawyers who are actually successful in what they do.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority was set up in 2007.

One prediction that was slightly less accurate was Perrin’s assertion that the accountants would give up attempts to enter the legal market. Though accountancy firms did back away from law for a while as a result of the Enron scandal of 2001, they have since returned and are offering legal services.

Lawyer 2B got in contact with Perrin, who said: “Well, it only goes to show that if you make enough predictions at least some of them will come true.

“The big one that I missed?  How about the emergence of litigation funding as a transforming force in global litigation and arbitration markets?  I’m not sure I can be blamed about that; after all, back in 1999, I thought maintenance and champerty were crimes!”

The full article can be read below.

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