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OC’s Berg prepares for rockier roads following re-election to managing partner

Osborne Clarke (OC) has elected incumbent UK managing partner Ray Berg (pictured) to a second term in a ‘glowing endorsement’ of the firm’s growth.

But he has cautioned there is still plenty to achieve in ensuring OC was adaptable to tougher times ahead.

Berg was unopposed in being re-elected for a second four-year term and remains on the firm’s international board, OC announced today (24 October). Berg joined the firm in 2001 and became business transactions group head in 2011, before succeeding Simon Beswick as managing partner in 2015. His second term ends on the eve of the firm’s 275th anniversary in 2023.

Berg told Legal Business he would like to think his re-election was a ‘glowing endorsement’ of the previous four years, rather than no one else being prepared to look after the firm ahead of Brexit.

‘Joking aside, I think it’s recognition of the broader leadership team and the work we’ve done since taking over from Simon.’

OC’s senior partner Andrew Saul was also re-elected unopposed to a second four-year term in December last year.

The firm’s most recent financial results in June confirmed a five-year average of double-digit revenue growth, as global turnover rose 14% to €273m: it has increased 112% since 2013, making OC one of the top performers in the LB100 over that time.

The UK accounted for roughly 58% of turnover, and UK net profit grew 17% to £61.2m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) jumped from £642,000 to £711,000. The firm has been adding global offices over the last five years, and in the past year opened in Sweden and Shanghai, the latter under the name Zhang Yu & Partners.

Berg said the firm was largely delivering on its strategy but there was more to do, particularly in regards to people – both internally and clients. He saw an inflection point in the broader business market where traditional models around work-life balance, career ambitions, corporate responsibility and social equality were being disrupted.

‘It would be very easy for me to sit here and say “It’s been a great four years, it’s just going to be more of the same”,’ he commented. ‘But we’ve got to adapt to change, we can’t just keep doing the same stuff.’

OC has introduced various initiatives targeting social mobility, diversity and wellbeing in recent years, with Berg an active advocate. He said the firm would look to proactively report and set clear targets on those agendas, similar to environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting indexes which measure the sustainability and ethical impact of businesses.

‘We’ve shifted diversity as an issue from people recognising it’s important, to it being part of our strategy and not just ticking a box. But we need to shift the dial. I would like to think I could look back in four years’ time and we’ll have made a difference.’

He said market conditions were getting tougher and deals taking longer but activity was still reasonably buoyant. OC was tracking ahead of last year and Berg was confident the firm’s sector focus and international growth had given it a hedge.

‘We know we’ve got rockier roads ahead, without a doubt. You’ve got to be prepared to adapt and flex to the market – the adaptability to change is going to be the hallmark of the firms that continue to thrive and survive.’

For more on the rise of Osborne Clarke over the past ten years, see ‘Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade’