Disputes boutique Signature Litigation has seen revenue soar by 36% to £10.2m for the 2015/16 financial year, and continues invest in lateral hiring with Bryan Cave litigation partner, Ioannis Alexopoulos.
The firm’s gross profit margin stands at roughly 50% and under its profit sharing scheme, it gives away around 10% to all staff members at the firm. Under Signature’s profit sharing structure economic ownership is transferred away from the traditional equity partner model towards a direct and fixed participation of all members of the firm. Every pound of profit is split according to fixed and non-discretionary formula. The firm’s 2015/16 profit share of 34.3% to all members of the firm, is a significant increase on the previous year’s payment of 20.4%.
Chief executive officer Kevin Munslow told Legal Business: ‘The last four and a half years – our primary aim has been to broaden out the practice and even out the peaks and troughs. It’s a combination of the year before where we saw revenues dip a little – this is partly recovery from that. It’s regular day to day cases – there are a couple of cases where the rates have been particularly good – but it’s a reflection of the fact that the firm has been working on a handful of significant cases throughout the year concurrently. That’s kept everyone busy.’
Key cases on the books includes the ongoing £4bn shareholder group action against the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a major dispute against Credit Suisse on behalf of the investment fund of Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and his family for losses over mismanagement of his portfolio in Switzerland, which have led to criminal proceedings against the bank’s fund managers, and representing energy major ENRC in its high profile costs and privacy dispute with its former legal adviser Dechert.
In relation to profit sharing, Munslow adds: ‘In over the four years we’ve been operating we’ve given away profits worth 109% of base salaries worth to people who have been here from the start. That’s in addition to regular fee earner bonuses. People often think there is a catch to this – that we’ll claw it back somehow. Lots of firms have some element of profit sharing but often the reality is they fudge the issue and never actually pay out – and if they did, it was small. The reality is with this scheme that I can’t muck around with the parameters.’
Signature has also boosted its ranks with Bryan Cave litigator Alexopoulos, who joined the firm earlier this month. Alexopoulos trained at Holman Fenwick Willan and spent eight years working at the firm before joining DLA Piper as an associate in 1998. He eventually ascended to partner in 1998 and was at one time served as DLA’s London head of litigation.
He specialises banking disputes, particularly those involving financial products, investment banking and derivatives, as well as joint venture and shareholder disputes, shareholder protection, business break-ups and fraud. Other high-profile hires in recent months includes Clyde & Co litigator Julian Connerty.
Signature now houses eight partners and a further 22 fee earners strong, with the last year having seen the firm move into newly refurbished floors at their Fetter Lane offices, which will provide additional room for the ongoing growth of the firm. Munslow says the firm’s maximum headcount would range between 12 to 15 partners and overall 50 to 60 fee earners.