Matheu Swallow

It&#39s been a busy couple of months for the legal profession, most notably for the Andersen Legal network, the legal arm of stricken accountancy firm Andersen.

The network continues to be threatened with disintegration; Andersen Legal Australia has agreed to merge with Ernst & Young, and following the breakdown of talks with KPMG, several other firms are expected to leave the organisation. And key Andersen Legal partners face massive claims, with US class action law firms indicating that they will sue the Andersen Worldwide Partnership.

There was also bad news for Morgan Cole, which is withholding capital from a group of former Swansea partners and has expelled its head of insurance Iain Tenquist from the partnership. The merged firm has also suffered a staggering rate of departures and disappointing profit levels, while former head of energy Paul Dillon is joining Hammond Suddards Edge as a partner.

Meanwhile Clifford Chance is facing a showdown in Italy with senior partner Vittorio Grimaldi and at least three other partners, who are threatening a walkout over the management structure of Grimaldi e Associati Clifford Chance. Clifford Chance wants to introduce a managing partner role in Italy to improve communications between Grimaldi and the rest of the firm. However, the legacy Italian partners are understood to want to retain their own management structures. A further bone of contention is whether the post, if implemented, will be filled by an Italian or English partner.

March also saw a landmark initiative taken by the Law Society, which has voted to allow businesses to provide legal services directly to the public, meaning supermarket customers could soon be adding &#39legal advice&#39 to their shopping lists. However, a second proposal to allow solicitors to share fees with non-lawyers and to sell off parts of their equity to raise debt was rejected by 43 votes to 30.

Finally to the bar, where normally self-confident individuals were turned into gibbering wrecks as they waited for the silks list to be announced. This year there were far fewer disappointments than usual as the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine announced a record number of new QCs. Irvine has been accused of seeking to reform the system by the back door and leaving many clerks asking where on earth the work is going to come from for so many (113 in total) new silks.