For some reason I didn't blog about the June 2013 Conference in Milan, presumably because my 'blogging attention' was grabbed by something else that month, but that was a memorable trip too - partly because it was my first trip to that great city, and partly because I enjoyed co-chairing a very well-attended M&A Team meeting looking at the use of 'warranty and indemnity' (W&I) insurance on corporate transactions. That may not be the snappiest of topics for a two hour session, but a working knowledge of W&I cover is useful for any M&A lawyer as it allows us to offer our clients an additional means of risk management (complementing the usual disclosure process and 'warranty limitation' clauses). Aon kindly came and spoke at that meeting and were able to use their global reach to talk about issues that affected all of the lawyers present, regardless of their home jurisdiction.
You may ask why Morton Fraser invests so much in Interlaw (apart from the obvious answer that I get to visit interesting places and meet interesting people) and the simple answer is that it's important that we have access to the highest quality legal advice in the various jurisdictions in which our clients are based and/or do business. For example, I recently needed a company report to be prepared on a Russian company as part of an equity investment transaction that we're running. The Interlaw network allowed me to contact a 'friendly face' in St Petersburg who dealt with my query in a couple of hours. I'm also currently running a pan-European legal compliance project for a client whose business has a foot in most countries in the world. Part of my project role involves providing detailed advice on the UK legal requirements that affect my client, but another part involves co-ordinating the provision of comparative advice from 20 other European jurisdictions. My Interlaw contacts allowed me to do that with the minimum of fuss. It may sound old-fashioned, but receiving a friendly welcome from a genuine acquaintance in another law firm really does streamline the process. One of the less obvious benefits of being in Interlaw is that there's huge scope for football chat, and in a World Cup year, additional scope for silly bets about who’s going to beat who, who’s going out in the group stages and who’s going to be the top-scorer. Sadly I ended up down on the deal (having bet on England beating Italy) but fortunately I only lost €10 in the process, to a colleague in Milan. Even in these financially fraught times I can absorb that level of loss without resorting to not feeding my children.
Anyway, putting aside my foreign travels for a moment, how are things looking back in Scotland? By coincidence I've just written the introductory paragraph for the summer edition of our 'Designed for Business' ebulletin and I commented that on the one hand, we have the EY Item Club telling us that the UK economy will grow faster in 2014 than any other G7 state; on the other hand, Christine Lagarde of the IMF is telling us that the financial markets may be a little too upbeat.
I have to say that anecdotally, in spite of the fact that we're half way through the school holidays in Scotland, the number of completed private equity and corporate transactions on which we're advising continues at a healthy rate at a time of year when deals generally slow down to a glacial pace because of the holidays. Last week my team completed one private equity deal and one company purchase and we have a company sale and another two private equity deals scheduled to be signed within the next couple of weeks. We’re also working on a large property construction/investment deal that's also scheduled to be signed shortly, although the corporate side of that deal is minimal and it's primarily a debt-funded banking and construction deal. My point is that the market seems busy but not overblown - perhaps I could even go so far as to say 'sustainable'?