Defying gravity – Inside the improbable rise of Travers and Macfarlanes

Sebastian Prichard Jones

‘If you look at Wall Street, this model is replicated again and again. There is no reason it shouldn’t work in the UK.’ David Patient, now seven months into his second term as Travers Smith’s managing partner, responds philosophically to this Legal Business comment on the performance of his firm and Macfarlanes: ‘If two firms with once-derided models can so comprehensively outpace the wider industry, then even more of the profession’s battered received wisdom should be sceptically revisited.’

Criticism of Travers and Macfarlanes has largely focused on them being old-school, City-centric law firms, barring one tiny European outpost apiece. Yet the pair continue to defy expectations post-Lehman. For Travers, 2017/18 was its ninth consecutive year of growth, yielding an 18% uptick in turnover to £146.9m and a 24% surge in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £1.2m. Meanwhile, Macfarlanes’ reputation for striking profitability has yet to desert it in eight years of sustained revenue and PEP growth (marred only by a shaky 2015/16), with the firm upping revenue by 20% to £201.6m in the last financial year and posting an enviable 27% increase in PEP to £1.74m. Continue reading “Defying gravity – Inside the improbable rise of Travers and Macfarlanes”

The DLA interview: On this rock I build…

Simon Levine

Simon Levine (SL), co-chief executive, DLA Piper: I had a bit of fun and looked at the article you wrote on me when I first started [as DLA Piper’s co-chief executive, published in March 2015].

Legal Business (LB): Are you trying to catch us out? Because we got into this job to be inconsistent. Continue reading “The DLA interview: On this rock I build…”

The Women in Law debate: The challenge of you

Sabine Chalmers and Georgina Stanley on the 2019 Women in Law debate panel

Building on last year’s cover feature on the City’s star female deal counsel, Legal Business teamed up with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for a reception celebrating the strides made… and steps still to be taken. The 80 senior lawyers across in-house and private practice that gathered at The Ned in late November heard from a panel of general counsel (GCs) and partners talking frankly about careers, life and changing aspirations.


Natasha Good, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer: I was going to ask our panellists to start by telling us about the challenges they have faced on their career journeys. Continue reading “The Women in Law debate: The challenge of you”

We have the technology – Re-engineering a law firm

New Business Models debate at The Ivy

Hamish McNicol, Legal Business: What are the changes people have made in their business in the last 18 months that made the most impact?

Axel Koelsch, Addleshaw Goddard: When I joined Addleshaw I noticed the firm had done lots of innovative things, including paralegals up north, but they were scattered all over. We pulled those things together. When I was talking with clients, they do not think of those as six different things. They just have business problems they need to solve. Bringing all these new ways of working together allows you to start solving clients’ problems and not the law firm’s problems. Continue reading “We have the technology – Re-engineering a law firm”

The Simmons interview: What to worry about

Colin Passmore

Legal Business: Simmons seems to have come out of a period of malaise. What have been the primary drivers for that growth over the last two years?

Jeremy Hoyland, managing partner: Most of that has been driven by the sectors, so [opening in] Ireland is not because we’re interested in the domestic market. We’re interested because it’s an important market for banks and funds. Continue reading “The Simmons interview: What to worry about”

Banking and finance focus: Back to the future

(L-R) Peter Chapman, Emma Matebalavu and Charles Cochrane

‘The truth is no-one’s got the faintest idea what finance practices will look like in the future,’ shrugs Tony Bugg, Linklaters’ head of banking, when asked to describe a top City finance practice in 2030. Of the dozens of London finance chiefs and partners to whom Legal Business posed the question, Bugg’s take is at least one of the more candid.

If the last decade is any guide, the finance world will be girding itself for more wrenching change. The post-banking crisis environment has seen a dramatic increase in regulation and oversight of banks and helped encourage the growth of institutions filling the void as senior lenders retrench. Continue reading “Banking and finance focus: Back to the future”

‘No blueprint’: Looking back at Lehman’s wind-up

Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (LBIE)’s 5,500 employees left the London office at 25 Bank Street on Friday 12 September 2008 expecting to return on Monday morning to their weekly routine. As did their colleagues in the rest of the world.

Not that life had been easy up to that point. Global financial turmoil had been going for around a year and Lehman had just posted a $3.9bn third-quarter loss amid the subprime mortgage crisis. Yet, the sense was that the bank founded in 1850 would be bought out by either Barclays or Bank of America, despite the US government’s resistance to bailing it out. Continue reading “‘No blueprint’: Looking back at Lehman’s wind-up”

The GC (re)defined: Beyond the cookie cutter

Angelique de Lafontaine

What is it like to work as a lawyer in a fast-paced, risk-laden, tech-driven ‘disruptive’ company? How do general counsel (GCs) find the right level of resource in a company where legal is viewed as anathema to impatient entrepreneurs? When is a lawyer not a lawyer?

These are the questions we put to senior in-house figures we gathered from a broad range of early-stage or fast-moving, disruptive companies in our round table with Morrison & Foerster. Continue reading “The GC (re)defined: Beyond the cookie cutter”

No free lunch – Will law firm IPOs be the next big thing?

Dangling carrot

For years it could, just about, be ignored. But no longer. The UK’s largest practices are being forced to consider a seductive, provocative, explosive question that strikes right to the heart of a law firm and what it means to be a professional: have they considered an initial public offering (IPO)?

By now, of course, at some level they all have, if only to construct a stock (no pun) rebuttal of the case for capital. But despite public dismissal by the leadership of the majority of top-25 UK firms, under the surface there is far more curiosity in this year’s string of legal floats. Continue reading “No free lunch – Will law firm IPOs be the next big thing?”