Return of the Loadsamoney lawyers as magic circle partners enjoy extremely fine wines

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By Judge John Hack on

Break out the red braces, start waving fistfuls of fifty pound notes and bray like something normally housed in a stables — according to Freshfields, the good times are back


This picture, tweeted from the team that runs City law firm partner message board RollOnFriday during a lunch with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, demonstrates that the depressing gloom triggered by the global financial crisis has well and truly lifted.

Ostentation is back — as is boasting about it. This bottle of 1985 Hermitage La Chapelle is not the sort of plonk one knocks back quickly with a plate of spag bog before uncorking another.

No, ordering this little French red over lunch at some of London’s top restaurants will leave little change from £630. Independent wine merchant Christopher Piper categorises this drop from the Rhone Valley as being “the most famous wine produced by Paul Jaboulet Aîné”.

Connoisseurs and Freshfields partners will not need reminding that the wine is named after the small 13th century chapel built by Chevalier Gaspard de Stérimberg. The knight was wounded in 1224 during the Albigensian crusade, and sought permission from Queen Blanche de Castille to establish a hermitage that today runs to 130 hectares, with Jaboulet’s “La Chapelle” vineyards covering 21 hectares.

Piper describes the wine as being “a structured and savoury La Chapelle with overtones of coffee and spice with underlying flavours of the blackest ripest cherries”.

What else will that £630 buy in today’s legal market? Well, according to an online jobs site, Freshfields pays its summer vac students £825 for three-weeks’ work. So the partners could have had at least a fortnight’s photocopying and tea-making courtesy of a student keen to impress.

And a brand new barrister’s wig from specialist legal profession outfitters Ede & Ravenscroft goes for about £560, which, while arguably an antiquated bit of frippery, will at least last longer than a bottle of wine.

But clearly Freshfields partners reckon they now have money to splurge when it comes to lunching with their chums, although they may have forgotten that RollOnFriday is part-owned by an equity partner at competitor City firm Ashurst.

According to The Lawyer magazine, the latest financial results for the Anglo-German global giant show firm-wide revenue increasing to £1.2 billion. That translated to an average profit per equity partner of nearly £1.5 million.

With that sort of annual average drawing, Freshfields equity partners can afford to bathe in Hermitage La Chapelle.

UPDATE — 3:40PM: A spokesperson from Freshfields said that “it wasn’t a Freshfields lunch, it was a private one not paid for by the firm”. RollOnFriday editor Matthew Rhodes said he was “happy to confirm that the Hermitage was on me, as a thank you for a very good lunch and a toast to my newborn daughter”.