Legal Business Blogs

Investing in London: Cooley sets City agenda with turnover targets and committee appointments

Having made its audacious entrance into London’s legal market in January, US tech giant Cooley has begun rolling out the agenda for its new 55-lawyer UK practice, including appointing two City lawyers to its management committee, a further two to its compensation committee, and setting a revenue target for the team.

With the partnership comprising a 15-strong team hired from Edwards Wildman’s beleaguered London office and a further five from Morrison & Foerster (MoFo), and led by Justin Stock, MoFo’s former corporate head, Cooley chief executive Joe Conroy (pictured) says the firm will be making ‘significant investments’ to its new base at Old Broad Street. This has already seen the appointment of former MoFo corporate partner David Bresnick and former Edwards Wildman commercial litigator Laurence Harris to its management committee while a further two lawyers from the London office will be appointed to the compensation committee.

Ballpark predictions for turnover, meanwhile, are upwards of $40m for the London office (the firm’s total revenues stood at around $674m for 2013), and for the practice to expand ‘pretty aggressively’, as evidenced by Conroy’s assertion of further hires to come in the first quarter.

With Cooley boasting a well-established reputation as one of the premier names in California’s legal technology community, Conroy is now keen to ensure operations in London run smoothly.

‘You don’t run a business this big and hold hands with every partner – but people can still pick up the phone to me. You cross cultural divides with that. A lot of US firms have cultural distances. There are permanent differences. UK lawyers relate differently to economics, timesheets and you want consistencies with how you compensate people and decide hours. You can’t just say what works in San Francisco will work here.’

Conroy further asserts his already publicised ‘sticky culture’ theory. ‘Firstly, every partner here can go do something else but they don’t have many choices to do what we do here. Secondly, it’s about having that compensation culture and putting your money where your mouth is. Whether people are contributing by bringing in business, servicing business, proliferating business – every partner is incentivised to create opportunities for other partners. There’s an ownership concept there. And lastly, we haven’t ever tolerated partners that don’t act right – I call it my hand truck speech – no matter how much business you develop, if you can’t act in the right way, it’s gonna be you, me, the hand truck and your stuff going out. Life is too short.’

‘People feel really bought in – from partner to secretary – law firms particularly in the US are not great places for non-lawyers to work because they don’t feel like teams – there’s big bright lights in between partners and everyone else. Preserving that bought in feeling as you grow is a huge challenge.’

For more in-depth analysis on Cooley’s launch in London, see Can Cooley make good on its City ambitions?