Legal Business

Kerr to hit 26 years at 2Birds’ helm as Addleshaws re-appoints Penney as senior partner

Kerr to hit 26 years at 2Birds’ helm as Addleshaws re-appoints Penney as senior partner

Bird & Bird’s long-standing chief executive David Kerr (pictured) is set to lead the firm until 2022 after standing unopposed in the firm’s latest election.

Addleshaw Goddard will also stick to its leadership after Charles Penney saw off a challenge by the firm’s employment group head Michael Leftley to secure a second term as senior partner.

Already one of the longest standing leaders ever of a City law firm, Kerr first took the helm of 2Birds in 1996 and oversaw its growth from 70 lawyers in three offices to over 1,300 across 29.

Kerr told Legal Business: ‘No-one can be in a job forever. My role is about making sure we have sufficient depth in our leadership groups so that partners have a wide choice when I do step down. My appointment is not really about me: it’s about building up the leadership team within the firm.’

He added: ‘The governance processes we have are very clear: there are lots of opportunities for contested processes if people want that. The partnership clearly didn’t want that this time around.’

The firm has grown turnover for 27 consecutive years off the back of its international expansion, hitting €382.3m in 2017/18.

The latest steps in the firm’s growth saw it open its first US outpost in San Francisco and sign a co-operation agreement with Chinese firm AllBright Law Offices, as well as adding the Budapest office of Weil Gotshal & Manges.

‘We have done a big strategic push in the US and China over the last couple of years and we want to continue that.’

While he stood unopposed this time around, Kerr ran against long-standing partner and head of IT consultancy Baseline Dominic Cook in 2016.

Although Kerr won that election, less than half of the partnership voted for him three years ago as almost 30% of partners abstained while Cook received around a third of the vote. Cook left the firm in August that year.

Meanwhile, corporate lawyer Penney’s second term as Addleshaws’ senior partner will start in May and run until April 2023.

A former secretary of the UK Takeover Panel, Penney joined the firm in 2005 from legacy Lovells (now Hogan Lovells). His client work focuses on public takeovers, IPOs and joint ventures.

He first took over from former senior partner Monica Burch in May 2016.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Bird & Bird reports 11% uptick in first-half revenue as LLPs reveal rich pickings for ExComm

Bird & Bird reports 11% uptick in first-half revenue as LLPs reveal rich pickings for ExComm

Bird & Bird’s nine executive committee members took home €6.4m in the year to April 2018, its LLP accounts showed today (30 January), as the firm announced turnover of €197m in the first half of the current financial year.

The TMT-focused shop saw pre-tax profit up 14% to €119.8m in the 2017/18 financial year, a pacier run than the 9% rise to €103.5m in the previous year. Turnover rose 6% to €380.9m.

The remuneration for chief executive David Kerr and the eight other executive committee members was up 16% on €5.5m last year, with the firm adding one member to the committee in the year.

But the UK top 20 firm’s top earner saw their compensation reduce by 4% to €1.04 from €1.08m as the number of partners rose by eight to 264. Staff costs grew 5% to €170.5m as fee-earner numbers rose by 40 to 1,099 and support staff by 55 to 906.

As anticipated by chief financial officer Richard Olver in June, the firm almost halved its debt to €27.2m compared to a considerable €49.3m in the previous year.

Olver told Legal Business the firm had ensured partners paid their capital contributions more quickly rather than building it over the years. He added he was ‘very comfortable’ with the current level of debt, ‘and so are the banks’.

The accounts also show that the firm had a €1.436m bank loan at the end of April last year, repayable in 12 monthly instalments. This was 9% higher than the loan the firm took the previous year, although Olver said it was ‘normal business’ and pointed to a ‘rather attractive’ 0.8% interest rate.

The firm also announced that its revenue in the six months between May and October 2018 grew 11% to €197m from €177m in the same period in 2017, with profit rising 13% to €59m.

‘It’s a good set of results,’ Kerr told Legal Business. ‘We are pleased at the way it’s going, particularly with all the political uncertainty around the world.’

He pointed to double digit percentage growth in Asia, the Nordics and central Europe, and said that despite concerns about the UK, the firm had seen ‘good growth’ on its home turf, too.

The firm saw a lot of GDPR-related work throughout H1: ‘Interestingly, that’s continuing even though it was implemented last May,’ Kerr commented.

Kerr added the firm was on track to post a similar performance in the second half of the year: ‘We are a very international firm, so we are less dependent on problems in one country.’

The latest moves in the firm’s international expansion included the opening of a representative base in San Francisco in September, after the firm hired former Taylor Wessing’s international US group co-head Kai Westerwelle and the acquisition of a 20-strong Budapest team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges earlier last year.

Kerr concluded: ‘A lot of people thought that corporate work would be down, with the Trump administration, Brexit and populist parties on the rise. But corporate work is holding up pretty well, as is contentious.’

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Freshfields insolvency veteran heads for the Bar as BCLP and 2Birds beef up global ranks

Revolving doors: Freshfields insolvency veteran heads for the Bar as BCLP and 2Birds beef up global ranks

It has been another busy week on the lateral market, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer seeing other departures and a raft of international firms growing their ranks in Europe and the US.

Freshfields’ restructuring and insolvency partner Nicholas Segal will leave the Magic Circle firm after 12 years to start a new career at Erskine Chambers in September after completing the formalities to join the Bar.

A Magic Circle veteran, Segal was at Allen & Overy until 2003, when he joined Davis Polk’s New York office and became dual qualified. After joining Freshfields in 2006, he acted for Northern Rock during its 2007 crisis and has sat as a judge of the Grand Court in Cayman since 2015.

Erskine’s head Michael Todd QC said: ‘Nick is a leading figure in the restructuring arena and his expertise will further strengthen our reputation with our commercial clients as a go-to set for company and insolvency matters.’

Freshfields also lost its Vienna head of arbitration Moritz Keller to Clifford Chance (CC) last week. He will join the Magic Circle rival’s Frankfurt office.

‘Moritz perfectly complements our strong German and international team with his expertise as a trusted arbitration and litigation specialist, adding value to our clients,’ said CC’s Germany managing partner Peter Dieners.

The exits came the week after Freshfields announced the departure of high-yield partner Ward McKimm for his former shop Shearman & Sterling. He returns to Shearman’s capital markets practice where he worked for 14 years, becoming partner in 2005 and co-head of its corporate group in 2010. McKimm later joined Kirkland & Ellis before moving to Freshfields in 2015.

Elsewhere, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) announced the appointment of Mukul Chawla QC to lead its UK corporate crime team in London, part of the firm’s global investigations practice.

Chawla comes from Foundry Chambers and specialises in fraud and white collar crime. In the past two years Chawla has served as the lead adviser to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) on its largest investigation, a multi-jurisdictional multi-defendant case on suspected bribery by Unaoil and a range of other companies. He also conducted the first Libor rate manipulation prosecutions in the UK.

Nathan Willmott, co-head of BCLP’s global investigations practice, said that Chawla ‘has an unparalleled insight into the approach of the SFO and other prosecuting bodies’.

On the other side of the pond, Bird & Bird appointed Kai Westerwelle to its San Francisco outpost, the firm’s first office in the States. Westerwelle had been co-head of Taylor Wessing’s international US group and partner since 2003.

He will join the firm in September as the new California base opens, advising clients on international disputes, intellectual property and data privacy issues.

Meanwhile, US giants Kirkland and Latham continued their advance both sides of the Atlantic.

Corporate partner Dennis Williams is to join Kirkland’s New York office from DLA Piper. He focuses on healthcare regulatory, compliance and transactional matters.

Latham is continuing its expansion in Germany with the hire of partner Tim Wybitbul from Hogan Lovells. Wybitul will join the US firm’s Frankfurt litigation and trial department and also be a member of its data privacy and security practice.

‘Tim is a highly regarded practitioner, with vast experience advising clients on the full spectrum of privacy law matters, and he will add further depth to our German and European practice,’ said Germany managing partner Oliver Felsenstein.

Latham has been expanding aggressively in Germany this year, scooping a number of Magic Circle partners. In May it hired CC’s banking veteran Thomas Weitkamp in Munich, while in March it brought in Freshfields’ corporate partner Tobias Larisch.

Legal Business

More growth for global traveller Bird & Bird as post-float Gordon Dadds hikes income 25%

More growth for global traveller Bird & Bird as post-float Gordon Dadds hikes income 25%

Another year of international expansion has seen the 27th consecutive year of revenue growth for Bird & Bird as the firm posted a 6% rise to €382.3m and an 11% hike in sterling terms to £337m, as Gordon Dadds passed the £30m mark in its first results since its public listing.

In what chief executive David Kerr described as ‘strong growth’, Bird & Bird increased profit per equity partner (PEP) by 10% to £550,000 with the number of equity partners growing from 105 to 113.

In local currencies revenue increased 9% in a year in which the City-bred TMT leader opened two new branches and recruited a large team in continental Europe. Lawyer numbers are up from 1,141 to over 1,200 in 29 offices worldwide. Like-for-like growth was slightly slower than last year’s 11% rise .

‘The good thing is that we have seen growth across the board in all jurisdictions and practice areas,’ Kerr told Legal Business. ‘The focus we have is a good one because the world is seeing a lot of changes being brought by tech.’

The firm also nearly halved its borrowings to €26m after its public accounts revealed a €49.3m debt for the 2016/17 financial year . ‘The debt reduction is a combination of factors,’ the firm’s chief financial officer Richard Olver commented. ‘We didn’t raise capital at all, but we have got partners to contribute more quickly than before. We looked at how we chase clients and get them to pay on a reasonable basis. The success is visible in the figures.’

The year’s highlights included acting for Nokia in its global patent and antitrust dispute with Apple and advising on Darktrace’s $75m fundraising. ‘We are seeing more acquisitions driven in some ways by tech, in tech assets or in tech-driven businesses,’ noted Kerr. ‘There was a significant increase in data-related work for understandable reasons. I don’t think it’s just a one off. Data is becoming more important by the day, as is regulation. We have seen a big increase in the whole area of investigations driven by regulation.’

The firm also continued its international expansion over the year, signing a co-operation agreement with China practice AllBright Law Offices, opening its second Dutch office in Amsterdam  and launching a representative branch in San Francisco. Bird & Bird also brought in a 20-strong team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Budapest  in a move that saw the US firm shut its local operations.

Gordon Dadds, meanwhile, announced it has grown its top line 25% to £31.2m in the year to 31 March as it disclosed its first financial results since its listing in the Alternative Investment Market last August .

Profits before tax were up 23% to £3m as the firm acquired five businesses in the financial year, including tax advisory business CW Energy for £4m . Operating profits, which include partner profit shares, were up 19% £8.8m.

The group also acquired south London firm Alen-Buckley, legal and professional services business White & Black, as well as Bristol-based outfits Metcalfes and Thomas Simon. Gordon Dadds also recently opened a Hong Kong outpost and received approval to practice as a foreign law firm.

With most of the acquisitions completed towards the end of the financial year, the firm said annualised revenues were £42m.

Chief executive Adrian Biles said the group had ‘exceeded the expectations that we set for ourselves and for our shareholders’. He added that the group expected ‘significant further growth during the year’ and promised other acquisitions: ‘We continuously examine expansion opportunities and are engaged in discussions with firms in a number of other international jurisdictions. In the UK, we have a good pipeline of potential acquisitions with which we are at various stages of discussion or negotiation.’

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

An ‘amicable’ discussion sees Weil Gotshal exit Hungary as 20-strong team joins Bird & Bird

An ‘amicable’ discussion sees Weil Gotshal exit Hungary as 20-strong team joins Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird has bolstered its Budapest operations by adding a 20-strong Weil, Gotshal & Manges team, bringing the US firm’s presence in Hungary to an end.

Both parties insisted that the two-partner team move on 1 February was the result of an ‘amicable arrangement’ between the firms rather than headhunting by Bird & Bird.

Legal Business

For what they’re worth – Links, 2Birds and Pinsents among law firms disclosing chunky gender pay gaps

For what they’re worth – Links, 2Birds and Pinsents among law firms disclosing chunky gender pay gaps

The UK’s top law firms have begun disclosing figures on gender pay gaps, with an initial round of numbers showing City giant Linklaters has the biggest gulf between male and female earnings.

The Magic Circle firm on Wednesday (7 February) published its figures for gender pay bands, as required under legislation introduced last year, which showed Linklaters paid its male staff members nearly 60% more in bonuses than women. The firm’s female employees were paid on average 23.2% less than male colleagues. The gap widened to 39.1% when the median figure was considered.

Linklaters’ figures were published as three more top 50 law firms today (8 February) unveiled equivalent numbers: Pinsent Masons, Taylor Wessing and Bird & Bird.

Taylor Wessing had the smallest gap, as the average hourly pay was 13.48% higher for men, rising to 32.1% on a median basis. In comparison, female staff at Bird & Bird earned on average 14.5% less per hour than their male counterparts, a figure that grows to 27.6% when earnings are ranked on a median basis.

The average pay gap at Pinsents was significantly higher at 22.4%, which the firm said was due to its regional office network resulting in lower rates for bottom-earners. However, the firm had the lowest median gender pay gap of the group at 22.4%.

CMS has already announced its figures, demonstrating that the average UK hourly earnings rate for women is 17.3% lower than men, while the median average hourly rate was 32.8% lower. CMS had the lowest mean average gap in terms of bonuses at 26.9%, while the firm’s median gap was at 30.4%.

Figures for the group were lower than the mean and median pay gap for the legal sector overall, which the Office for National Statistics estimates at 24% and 25.7% respectively.

The disclosures cover all business support staff and associates and demonstrate the position as of 5 April 2017. All UK companies with more than 250 staff are required to publish such figures by 4 April 2018.

All the law firms profess confidence that they are paying male and female employees the same for equivalent jobs. They gave broadly similar reasons for their gender pay gaps, pointing to the fact that there were more women in less well-paid roles and a higher number of part-time female lawyers.

At Linklaters, women made up 79.2% of staff in the lowest-earning quartile – which includes secretarial and junior business team positions. In this quartile, the pay gap was 5.96% in favour of women. But in the upper quartile of earners at the firm, women accounted for 44.9% and earned 6.5% less than men.

‘We are confident that we pay men and women fairly for equivalent roles,’ stated Linklaters in a formal announcement, adding that there was a ‘more significant gender imbalance within our lower pay quartile’. ‘This also feeds into our bonus figures because the bonus potential for our secretarial and junior business team roles is generally lower than for our legal and more senior business team roles.’

Bird & Bird – where bonuses paid to women were on average 33.5% lower than those paid to men – stressed that the bonus gap also reflected the higher number of part-time female employees. Only two men worked part-time at the firm last year, compared to 60 women. ‘Unlike the pay gap figures, which are based on hourly rates, the bonus figures are the actual sums paid. This means that those who work part-time or have been on maternity leave for part of the bonus year will have lower bonuses than men carrying out an equivalent role,’ said the firm.

Cynics will argue that law firms have ducked the key issue as they are not required to disclose the gap in earnings between male and female partners. And law firms being fond of preaching high standards while taking the low road of pragmatism are collectively taking it upon themselves to report as little as possible. The jaded may also note that years of publishing poor numbers on female partnership ratios has had little discernible impact on the advancement of women.

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

LLP round-up: Bird & Bird debt soars as rising partner count freezes top pay at Clyde & Co

LLP round-up: Bird & Bird debt soars as rising partner count freezes top pay at Clyde & Co

While top 20 LB100 firms Bird & Bird and Clyde & Co both boosted their operating profit in the 2016/17 financial year, LLP accounts show that Bird & Bird also saw its debt grow while Clyde & Co’s rising partner numbers contributed to management and highest-paid member numbers barely increasing.

Bird & Bird’s LLP accounts showed pre-tax profit rose 9% to €103.5m in the year to April 2017 and the highest-paid member brought home €1.08m, up from last year’s €962,000. Turnover was also up 5% to €360.7m.

However the firm also saw net debt soar 24% to €49.3m. However, the firm’s chief financial officer Richard Olver told Legal Business the debt had been reduced to €30m as of 31 October last year.

He added that the increase in debt in 2016/17 was partly due to the figure being ‘slightly understated the previous year due to the financial arrangement for our new London base’, and partly the increased level of business and ‘clients paying more slowly’.

Bird & Bird moved to new premises at 12 Fetter Lane in September 2016. Last year the cost of the new building, equipment and computers was reported at €17m and the firm’s accounts showed debt tumbling 15% to €39.5m.

Olver added that the firm had since April 2017 implemented a ‘concerted effort’ to secure payments from debtors and asked partners to contribute more quickly without increasing the amount of capital required from them.

Bird & Bird has also unveiled its half-year financial results for the 2017/18 financial year, showing turnover rose 6% against the same period last year to €177m. On a like-for-like basis, the increase was 9%, the firm said.

‘The growth has been quite widespread across the areas we are focused on – the core sectors which are changed by technology,’ said chief executive David Kerr. Profit before tax was also up 7% to €52m in the first half of the financial year.

Meanwhile, insurance heavyweight Clyde & Co also filed its LLP accounts this week, recording a 14% uptick in turnover from £447m to £511m. The firm’s operating profit also saw a boost, rising from £117.4m to £124.8m.

Clyde’s highest-paid member took home slightly less than last year however, pocketing £1.37m instead of 2016’s £1.39m. The relatively static figure is explained by a healthy 16% upturn in the number of partners at the firm, which rose from 262 in 2016 to 305 in 2017.

The firm’s key management personnel, described in the accounts as ‘all designated members and a number of senior members and senior managers’ also took home less than last year. In 2016, £12.5m was distributed to the group, compared to £12.4m this time round.

The accounts show that Clyde took out over £76m in new bank loans in 2017, a significant increase on 2016 when the firm took out £10m. But despite the rising bank debt, Clyde’s cash position is more secure, with cash at bank and in hand growing from £18.2m to £28.3m. Clyde has also paid back £30m of the debt, meaning £36m of the loan is outstanding.

An increase in staff costs reflected an increase in headcount for Clyde, with the global number of fee-earners rising from 1,699 to 1,780 and the number of support staff growing from 1,324 to 1,494. Overall, staff costs went up 18% to £237.4m.

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Tom.baker@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Weil Gotshal to shut Hungarian operations as team jumps to expansive Bird & Bird

Weil Gotshal to shut Hungarian operations as team jumps to expansive Bird & Bird

Weil, Gotshal & Manges will close its Budapest office after its 20-strong Hungarian team agreed to join Bird & Bird in the latest chapter of the UK top 20 firm’s international expansion.

In what both firms described as the result of an ‘amicable’ discussion, Weil’s Budapest managing partner David Dederick will co-lead Bird & Bird’s local operations from 1 February.

Partner Konrád Siegler will join him together with three counsel, 10 associates and five trainees, bringing Bird & Bird’s Budapest headcount to 29 and making the office a key hub in the firm’s south-eastern European operations.

‘We have reached a very amicable arrangement with Weil, and I am absolutely sure the good and strong relationship will be maintained,’ said Bird & Bird international disputes head Peter Knight, who will head the Budapest operations together with Dederick. However, he denied there were any arrangements in place for a formal collaboration between the two firms on specific projects.

Weil’s former team will complement Bird & Bird’s traditional capabilities in tech and comms, IT, data and IP along with a financial services presence. The team will have a sector focus in energy and utilities, life sciences and healthcare.

Dederick specialises in cross-border M&A, private equity and real estate operations, while Siegler’s practice focuses on finance and capital markets transactions.

‘Budapest will become a pivotal centre to increase our work in eastern Europe and the Balkans and be a powerful centre in central Europe alongside Warsaw, sitting very comfortably with our German presence,’ added Knight. Bird & Bird also has two smaller offices in Slovakia and Check Republic.

A spokesperson for Weil said the firm would ‘continue to support the office during a transition period and would look to refer appropriate work to them’, adding: ‘Over the years, our Budapest office has been involved in milestone transactions in Hungary. We are very proud of all that our colleagues have achieved, and we know they will continue to accomplish great things.’

The announcement marks the latest act in Bird & Bird’s global expansion, one of the key factors behind the firm’s 162% revenue growth over the last ten years .

Last year the firm signed a co-operation agreement with noted Chinese shop AllBright and announced plans for a San Francisco base , as well as launching a second Dutch base in Amsterdam .

As for Weil, the Budapest closure comes one year after the firm announced it was shutting its Dubai arm . The US giant also lost a four-partner Silicon Valley corporate team to Hogan Lovells last spring .

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Bird & Bird eyes outbound China work as it seals co-operation deal with local leader AllBright

Bird & Bird eyes outbound China work as it seals co-operation deal with local leader AllBright

After 26 consecutive years of revenue increases Bird & Bird, which has grown its top line by 162% over the last decade – largely through international expansion – has moved its Asia ambitions further forward by teaming up with noted Chinese firm AllBright Law Offices.

Although the deal is no more than a non-exclusive co-operation agreement, it will see AllBright gain a base in London. The firm will open its operation within Bird & Bird’s Fetter Lane headquarters next year, staffed in the medium term by a permanent representative.

Legal Business

International doubles – Bird & Bird and Herbert Smith Freehills open new hubs in Amsterdam and Sydney

International doubles – Bird & Bird and Herbert Smith Freehills open new hubs in Amsterdam and Sydney

Bird & Bird continues to invest in its international operations, launching its second Dutch office in Amsterdam 16 years after opening in The Hague.

However the new base, operative in January 2018, will not have any permanent staff but act as a hub for the firm’s lawyers to meet with Amsterdam-based clients as well as providing a flexible working space.

Netherlands managing partner Marcus Huisman told Legal Business the firm saw Amsterdam as a logical step. ‘There is a need to be close on a regular basis to our clients and prospects. International clients arrive at Schiphol Airport [in Amsterdam] and we want to offer them the opportunity to meet us there.’

He also pointed to the relocation of the European Medicines Agency from London to the Dutch capital in April 2019 as the most recent development encouraging the firm to open the new space. ‘We have a strong footprint in that sector, and this provides us with new opportunities.’

Bird & Bird’s office in The Hague numbers 80 lawyers, around 20 of them partners, focusing mainly on IP, telecoms, IT, corporate, energy and tax.

Huisman said there was a ‘broad feeling’ that the firm’s energy, corporate and fintech operations would find more opportunities with a base in the capital, and the firm was also looking closely at the Dutch media sector, which is very much Amsterdam-based.

‘We don’t think the new space should be limited to a few partners or associates,’ added Huisman. ‘We want a collective effort to make it a success.’

Bird & Bird’s main operations in The Netherlands will remain in The Hague, where the country’s telecoms regulator and Supreme Court are located and many IP matters decided on. A division of the Unified Patent Court is also expected to be established in the city next year.

This is the third announcement concerning Bird & Bird’s international operations over the last two months. It signed a non-exclusive co-operation agreement with Chinese firm AllBright Law Offices at the beginning of the month and also announced it would open a representative office in San Francisco next year, its first base in the States.

Meanwhile, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is to open a second base in Sydney to house its alternative legal services team and most of its Australian business services staff from 2018.

The firm said the opening of the ‘innovative business service hub’ means ‘a much more sustainable occupancy cost for the firm in Australia’ and will help modernise the way its people work.

About 230 staff will relocate from the firm’s office at Castlereagh Street to the new premises in Macquarie Park at Talavera Road in the first half of next year, including chief operating officer Nicole Bamforth.

‘This enables us to markedly reduce the amount of space we lease in 161 Castlereagh Street with a number of the floors we currently occupy being relinquished to the building’s owners for re-leasing,’ said HSF chief executive officer Mark Rigotti. ‘The per-metre cost-saving is materially significant. The business case in making this move is unquestionable.’

marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk