Legal Business Blogs

‘Similar but different’: Osborne Clarke’s veteran senior partner Saul hands the baton to Clough

Having overseen a time of significant growth for Osborne Clarke, Andrew Saul (pictured) is making way for Peter Clough to take on the senior partner mantle.

OC announced today (Monday 11 October) that its partnership had elected Clough to take over the role for a four-year term on 1 January 2022, following on from Saul completing two terms.

Clough joined OC 25 years ago and was previously head of the firm’s Bristol office, a member of the partnership council and head of the disputes and risk practice group.

For his part, Saul went unopposed to be re-elected for his second four-year term in December 2017 on the back of an impressive run of growth, both financially and geographically.

OC’s most recent financials rallied in the face of last year’s Covid-hindered performance to record a 7% international revenue increase to €341m as UK profit and profit per equity partner (PEP) saw double-digit elevations for 2020/21.

OC’s UK showing also received a shot in the arm from last year when the firm posted a subdued 3% revenue increase to £155m from £150m, while UK net profit diminished by 5% to £59.8m from £63m.

In 2020/21, UK revenue increased by 8% to £166.4m, outstripping global performance, while UK net profit also saw a pacey 14% hike from £59.8m in 2019/20 to £67.9m. A 16% surge in PEP to £714,000 more than reversed last year’s 12% drop to £614,000, when significant investments in both its people and infrastructure and partner investments were cited as the reasons for the drop.

Talking to Legal Business, Clough said of his leadership style: ‘Andrew and I are similar but different. We’re both quite measured in our approach and reasonably calm. Andrew has always had an almost serene approach to the role and has been an absolute exemplar for how to do the role in a professional services firm really well.

‘One of my real passions is client relationships and development. I’m keen to use the senior partner platform as a way of helping our people with those relationships. I did promise yesterday in our partners’ meeting that I wouldn’t disappear off into a room and do only internal things! I’m really keen to remain client and market facing. We are lawyers, after all!’ He added that the official split between client-facing and leadership responsibilities was 50:50, however in practice the ratio was liable to change on a daily basis.

Clough said the plan would fundamentally be to continue the upward trajectory of a business he described as ‘absolutely flying’ despite an at times challenging market. He pointed to the 3D Strategy OC launched in the midst of the pandemic, geared towards helping clients in core sectors with issues relating to digitalisation, decarbonisation and urban dynamics. He said of the strategy: ‘It was part of our response to the pandemic and it’s been really successful in generating really interesting conversations. Decarbonisation is what all business needs to do now and it’s become a really hot topic. I can’t see that going backward, particularly given the rise in energy prices and the fact that ESG is on everyone’s corporate agenda these days. That’s been a really interesting journey and we’re very optimistic that the strategy will help us take the firm onto new heights.’

Clough ended by being sanguine on the market outlook: ‘At the beginning of the pandemic if you’d ask us how the year would pan out, we wouldn’t have said anywhere near as good as it did. We’re still trading at really good levels and have been for months.

‘We’ve had 12 consecutive fantastic months and, touch wood, there is no current sign of that changing. You’d have taken that at the beginning of April 2020, wouldn’t you?’