According to Mayer Brown chairman Tyrone Fahner, the US partners love Maher’s understated British humour (some of them have even drawn parallels with Hugh Grant). They find it “hilarious” when his schoolboy banter with UK partners Sean Connolly and Jeremy Clay suddenly engulfs a management meeting. And they can’t help but wind Maher up about his slightly disheveled appearance by asking him who does his hair.
What the Americans also love about the man who has just become London senior partner is his directness and his extraordinarily committed work ethic.
“Paul’s truthfully one of the smartest, most hard-working lawyers I’ve ever met, period,” says Fahner, who got to know Maher over many a late night-early morning phone call at the height of their firms’ merger talks. “He’s very direct and no-nonsense – which doesn’t mean he’s not caring, but he’ll tell any partner or any client his assessment of a situation more quickly than anyone that I’ve seen, and then he’s ready to give advice on what needs to be fixed.
Maher is pleased with what the merger has so far achieved. “I never think of us as a mid-sized London law firm anymore, which is quite a release,” he laughs.
It was a Chicago referral, for example, that recently gifted London the role of adviser to Canadian millionaire Galen Weston on his Selfridges bid. Every practice area now has a handful of global practice area leaders tasked with ‘maximising’ opportunities like this. “We’re much more organised and focused now on new opportunities and new clients,” emphasises Maher.
He describes the chemistry that has developed between the two firms as one of the “best things” about the first year of the merger. Seventy-six per cent of the Mayer Brown partners voted in favour of the merger in a closed ballot, with the balance against. “I can’t find that 24 per cent,” says Maher.
So what has been the toughest thing? “Getting people to say the name,” replies Maher with a wry smile. He was never a big fan of the cumbersome Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw option, but failed to sell his own concoction of Mayer Rowe & Brown. What he did extract, however, was the promise that Rowe & Maw would not simply be lopped off
Turning down work because of conflicts with the US has also taken some getting used to. “The rules are very different [in the UK and the US]. We’ve had to wrestle with that,” Maher says.
Mayer Brown’s fledgling operations in France and Germany have given Maher the taste for international growth. Pre-Rowe & Maw, this was New York partner Mark Wojciechowski’s baby. The firm is in the process of setting up a European board, and Fahner has asked Maher to be chair.
As well as building out the existing offices, Maher wants to see two or three more European offices – Italy, Spain and the Netherlands being the most obvious choices. The US currently brings in 70-75 per cent of turnover and, not surprisingly, Maher wants to see that shift.