In a unanimous vote, Simmons & Simmons has voted through a new three-year business plan with a focus on strengthening referral relationships in the US, transforming its partner-client relationships and committing to a set of firm-wide values.
The strategy, which will run from 1 May 2015 through to 30 April 2018, will place greater structure around which US firms partners refer work to, in the hope of forging stronger relationships. Simmons currently has an alliance in place with finance boutique Seward & Kissel, but directs work to upwards of 50 firms in the US. Jeremy Hoyland (pictured), who was recently re-elected as the firm’s managing partner until the end of April 2019, told Legal Business: ‘We have been trying to develop relationships with US firms. It’s still by far and away the largest legal market and we’ve felt our profile there has been too low. We have a laissez faire attitude to referrals and that means that we have a diffuse impact on US firms’ perception of us.
‘That’s an unmanaged process and we want to manage it better. We want to have relationships with a smaller number of firms where there is some genuine peer-to-peer relationships. We think that would deliver better service for our clients and encourage more referrals coming our way than we get at the moment.’
Hoyland is hopeful that forging better links with US firms will also improve the firm’s merger options in the long-term too. He adds: ‘We think there will be more transatlantic consolidation, there are some very good US firms out there we’d like to think would be good potentials but there’s an awful lot for us to do ourselves. But I’m sceptical that something will happen in the short-term.’
The firm is also looking to drive a narrower focus, zoning in on asset management and investment funds, energy and infrastructure, financial institutions, life sciences and telecoms and media and technology. The strategy also expands the preferred list of clients and improves how partners manage their clients.
‘There is more we can and should be doing with the institutionalised client list and make more of the client-partner role,’ said Hoyland. ‘We’ve been looking at what some other professional services firms do and if you look at what it means to be a client-partner at PwC, it’s the thing you write on your gravestone, and the greatest achievement of your career. We don’t have that sort of mind-set and we need to move further in that direction. That comes with responsibilities. We want to look after the crown jewels and deepen those relationships wherever we can.’
A new scheme is being introduced to have a longer line of partners handling core clients, with deputies being brought in to ensure smooth succession of relationships and help broaden the amount of business secured from key clients. The firm currently operates three client lists, with a strategic account programme, or SAP, containing clients it holds a broad relationship with, followed by priority client and investment client lists.
Simmons will also be rolling out a set of firm values, a process being headed by senior partner Colin Passmore that is set to conclude at the end of this month. Hoyland said: ‘There’s a lot about Simmons that is distinct and there’s benefit in capturing that and using it as a way so that we don’t lose what is precious. Like everybody else we’ve been pushing to improve profits in an increasingly challenging market and having some balance is a good thing.’