Legal brief: Hot topics

With the deadline for submitting training contract applications just hours away now is a really good time to swot up on some of the hot topics that may come up during your interview.

The obvious subject is of course the credit crunch. And for those of you who still haven’t figured out what it is here’s a simple definition: “credit crunch (also known as a credit squeeze or credit crisis) is a reduction in the general availability of loans (or credit) or a sudden tightening of the conditions required to obtain a loan from the banks.”

But being able to define the credit crunch isn’t enough. If you really want to impress an interviewer then you should be prepared to discuss its cause and the impact of the crisis on the legal market. If you’ve been logging onto regularly then you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on such as redundancies and plummeting partner profits etc. And as for the cause take a closer look at subprime mortgages.

But it hasn’t all been bad news. Slaughter and May for instance has cleaned up from the crisis advising the UK Government on the £35bn bank bailout last autumn. Linklaters, meanwhile, hasn’t done badly either after scoring the mandate to advise on the UK aspects of the Lehman Brothers administration.

Elsewhere, the standout deal of the year so far was undoubtedly the sale of Barclays Global Investors to BlackRock for a whopping £8.2bn (read more). Staying with the banking theme Norton Rose, which picked up The Law Firm of the Year gong at The Lawyer Awards last month, benefited from its close relationship with HSBC, getting the call for the bank’s £12.5bn rights issue. Norton Rose corporate partner Martin Scott led the team alongside London-based corporate partners Nick Adams and Chris Randall and Hong Kong-based corporate partners Richard Crosby and Liza Lee. As is the case for the majority of recent share raisings, Linklaters acted for the underwriters.

Another company poised to do a rights issue is flag carrier British Airways. If BA does decide to go ahead with the fund raising exercise then that will be even more good news for long-term adviser Slaughters, which is expected to be instructed on the deal.

But the biggest deal of the year in value featured two companies you have probably never heard of. Pharmaceuticals giant Merck has offered a staggering $41bn (£28.07bn) bid for rival Schering Plough, leading to instructions for US firms Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz respectively (read more).