Legal Business

Perspectives: Mark Watts, Bristows

Throughout school, science seemed to be the direction I was heading in. I did the undergraduate piece and went on to the doctorate. I loved both actually, particularly the doctorate. We were doing some really cutting-edge physics, like trying to detect a new particle for the first time, that sort of thing.

There were elements of being a physicist and doing experiments that were really exciting. When you felt you’re on the verge of discovering something really new, it’s hard to describe the high that comes with that. It’s also hard to describe the low when the experiment fails and the result slips through your fingers.

Legal Business

Bristows points to Brexit as TMT specialist launches first-ever international office in Brussels

The impact of Britain’s exit from the EU on the international strategy of City firms is still largely obscure – those announcing Dublin launches since the referendum have sought to play down the role of Brexit in their decision.

But Bristowsʼ joint managing partner Marek Petecki is clear: the rationale for launching the firm’s first international office in its 180-year history ‘is about addressing the challenges of Brexit’.

Legal Business

The Brexit effect: Bristows to open first international office in 180-year history with Brussels launch

Technology and life sciences specialist Bristows is to open in Brussels next year in a move that underlines the impact of Brexit on City stalwarts.

In what will be its first move overseas in its 180-year history, Bristows’ EU regulatory and competition lawyers will be using the new office from March 2018 as a base for representing international clients on EU law, with the firm currently not planning to recruit any new partners to work there full-time.

Competition partner Stephen Smith will manage the new base and seek Brussels Bar registration to cover both the UK and Belgium, along with the firm’s other two competition partners, Sophie Lawrance and Pat Treacy.

‘Brussels is about addressing the challenges of Brexit,’ joint managing partner Marek Petecki told Legal Business.

The firm, best known for its top-ranked IP litigation work, advises clients – 80% of them from outside the UK – on EU matters including competition and regulatory law, trade mark and data privacy, which altogether involves around 50 of its 186 lawyers.

‘We want to be able to continue to offer that capability after Brexit, regardless of what arrangements there are from March 2019,’ continued Petecki. ‘After Brexit, the UK will naturally be more isolated and distant from what happens in the EU. We want to make sure we are still there and credibly tell clients we are on top of all this.’

The firm started discussing opening in one of the EU member states immediately after Britain voted to quit the bloc in June 2016, choosing Brussels because it gives it the chance to interact more closely with the European institutions and move easily across the continent.

It will initially have around half a dozen competition lawyers rotating between London and Brussels but Petecki added: ‘We will continue to review our operation there as we get closer to Brexit. If there is hard Brexit, we could see an acceleration of what we do in Brussels.’

Bristows is the second firm City-focused firm to launch in the Belgian capital in 2017 after Macfarlanes opened there at the beginning of the year with a competition trio hired from King & Wood Mallesons failing European arm.

Meanwhile, a number of larger international firms have announced plans to open outposts in Dublin since the Brexit vote: Simmons & Simmons , Covington & Burling (which launched a life sciences team in Ireland) and Pinsent Masons all launched in the Irish capital this year.

Legal Business

‘Big shoes to fill’: Bristows appoints Cohen as new joint managing partner

Bristows has become the latest Legal Business 100 firm to elect a female leader, today (20 September) appointing life sciences co-head Liz Cohen as its new joint managing partner.

The appointment of Cohen (pictured), who joined the firm as a trainee in 1999 and made partner in 2008, follows the passing of the hugely popular Theo Savvides in a cycling accident in July and sees her link-up with joint managing partner and corporate specialist Marek Petecki. Despite her promotion, she will continue to advise her clients on patent litigation in the English courts, for which she has a leading reputation.

Cohen told Legal Business that she had been unanimously elected by the firm’s partnership, and was not worried about striking a balance between her managing partner duties and client responsibilities as ‘previous managing partners have done it well.’

On Savvides’ legacy, she commented: ‘It is obvious from the market’s reaction that he was held in very high regard, and therefore I have very big shoes to fill.’

In a statement, Petecki added: ‘Liz is a highly respected lawyer and a fantastic ambassador for the firm. I’m really looking forward to working with her in her new role, at what is a very exciting time for the firm.’

Alongside the news of Cohen’s appointment, Bristows has also promoted senior associates Gregory Bacon and Gemma Barrett to the firm’s partnership. In keeping with the firm’s core strengths, Bacon and Barrett are both contentious intellectual property specialists, and share Cohen’s focus on patent litigation.

Petecki welcomed the added depth to the patent litigation team, and described Bacon and Barrett as ‘lovely colleagues’ who are ‘great representatives of our culture and way of doing things.’

Cohen steps up to Bristows at difficult time for the firm, which despite posting a 25% increase in turnover for the last five years recorded a 4% drop in revenues to £41m for the 2016/17 financial year. Profit per equity partner (PEP) consequently took a significant hit, falling 11% to £432,000 – still comfortably ahead of the average PEP for firms in the second 50 of the LB100.

Legal Business

‘Unshakeable integrity and commitment’: Bristows joint managing partner Savvides dies in cycling accident

London head-quartered firm Bristows is mourning the death of joint managing partner Theo Savvides, who tragically passed away on 10 July following a cycling accident in France.

Intellectual property (IP) partner Savvides joined Bristows three years ago from Osborne Clarke and was made joint managing partner in 2016. Having trained at Allen & Overy, he was also an associate at the Magic Circle firm until 2002.

Savvides, who was born in 1968, advised clients for over twenty years on a board range of IP matters in the media, technology, retail, consumer products, automotive and life sciences sectors.

He led Bristows copyright and digital litigation practice and recently worked on the high profile search engine trade mark case, Marks & Spencer v Interflora. He also worked for many other high-profile clients of the firm, including Sony and Spotify. Well-known within the international IP law community, he also worked for the International Trademark Association.

In a statement, Bristows stated: ‘Theo joined us only three years ago, but in that short time he made an enormous and enduring contribution to this firm. With his boundless energy and unwaveringly positive outlook, Theo took everything in his stride and embraced any and all challenges that came before him.’

‘Theo was one of our joint managing partners at the time of his death, and in that role he enjoyed the absolute trust and confidence of his partners and colleagues. His unshakable integrity and commitment to the firm and its values made him an obvious choice for the job, and he undertook it with the enthusiasm, wisdom and thoughtfulness that underpinned his great professional success as a lawyer.

The firm also stated that in his daily work, ‘Theo was respected and admired not only for his considerable talents, but also for his kindness, patience and willingness to listen to others. Theo strove tirelessly to be the best that he could be – as a lawyer, partner, manager and friend – and in doing so he enriched the lives of all those around him.’

Legal Business

‘Not a central issue for clients’: BLP scales back IP practice as nine-lawyer team joins Bristows

BLP confirmed today (21 March) that nine of its lawyers, including intellectual property (IP) head Simon Clark and head of the brand management and trade marks group Ian Gruselle, are leaving the firm for TMT specialist Bristows.

BLP currently lists two IP partners, and with Clark’s departure this significantly condenses the firm’s IP practice, which according to a spokesperson has been identified as ‘not a central issue for clients in the firm’s core sectors’ in a review conducted last year.

‘It has been difficult for the team to realise its full potential at BLP. Simon Clark and Ian Gruselle have been great colleagues and we hope to continue to work with them closely in the future,’ a statement said.

‘We will continue to do IP transactional work, which will be run out of our commercial team,’ it added.

The hire of Clark and the team will add further weight to Bristows’ top-ranked IP practice, which has a longstanding reputation for its premier trade mark practice that complements its hard IP work. Joint managing partners Marek Petecki and Theo Savvides said: ‘Simon brings over 20 years of IP litigation experience and will add to our significant bench strength across brands, designs, copyright and digital disputes.  Subject to regulatory approval, Ian will join us as our first trade mark attorney partner at the head of a combined team of eight trade mark attorneys which will enhance our market leading brand management practice.’

Meanwhile, BLP has broadened its TMT practice with the hire of data privacy and security expert and Reed Smith partner Kate Brimsted as head of its data and cyber security practice. She will join BLP next week.

This departure comes after a series of exits at BLP in 2016, including corporate investigations head Darren Allen who left for Dentons, tax partner Michael Wistow who joined White & Case, capital markets partner Nick Butler and litigation partner Andrew Rose.

No further redundancies at BLP are expected as a consequence, however the news raises questions on whether there will be more exits as part of the strategy review of some of the firm’s other non-core practice areas.

Legal Business

Bristows picks Savvides as joint managing partner two years after his hire


TMT specialist Bristows has elected IP litigator Theo Savvides as its joint managing partner, less than two years after he joined as a lateral hire from Osborne Clarke.

Having taken effect on 1 May, Savvides leads the firm jointly with existing co-managing partner and data protection specialist Mark Watts. He has succeeded incumbent Iain Redford, who has returned to full time fee earning.

Savvides also heads up the LB100 firm’s copyright and digital disputes team advising clients in the media, technology, consumer product and life sciences sectors.

Corporate partner Redford steps down from the position after serving two terms and resumes a full-time focus on his practice in the technology, media, telecoms and life sciences sectors.

Watts and Redford assumed their roles five months apart in 2010 as a relatively young management team. Handpicked for management just 15 years after qualification, neither faced any hustings, manifesto or elections and both were asked by the other 32 all-equity partners at the time if they would like to run the firm.

Bristows’ financial performance during the pair’s tenure has impressed, particularly as it has completed no mergers, rarely makes lateral hires and has no overseas offices. Last year’s revenue increased by 12% to £38.1m, constituting a 58% rise over five years, while profit per equity partner rose by 8% to £392,000.

Watts said: ‘Theo has a clear understanding and appreciation of our unique firm culture while also bringing a fresh perspective of the market. The announcement confirms Bristows’ commitment to a full-service strategy, driven by our work with innovative, cutting-edge clients around the world.’

Savvides said: ‘The opportunity came up to bring a fresh perspective to things while also continuing the good work Mark and Iain have done over the last six years. The process involved a soundings process and then a partners meeting I didn’t attend. I want to focus the full service nature of the firm through the two main sectors we operate – TMT and life sciences – and focusing on the clients we’ve got and service delivery we want to provide. We have no immediate plans to recruit but we’re open to it and bringing partners through.’

Legal Business

Financials 2013/14: Bristows records 4% revenue drop alongside 17% PEP slide as Withers enjoys revenue boost


London stalwart Bristows has revealed disappointing results for the 2013/14 financial year, as revenue has decreased nearly 4% to £34.1m while profit per equity partner (PEP) suffered a steep 17% drop to £364,000. Private client-focused Withers, meanwhile, saw revenue grow 4.7% to £123.3m from £117.8m as well as a 3.6% PEP boost to £376,000.

The 33-equity partner firm Bristows has recorded starkly different results to last year, in which revenue and PEP both rose 8% to £35.4m and £170,000 respectively, although profit per lawyer took a 3% dip to £110,000.

The technology and IP specialist firm has been credited in recent years for being a well-managed firm with a tight sector and practice focus. Despite having dropped out of the LB100 in 2008 due to falling revenues, it was perceived to have returned from a position of perceived weakness to something of a revival post-crisis. Even more envied was its 2012 figures which revealed ground-breaking results, as the firm’s top line swelled by 27% to £32.9m, while net income leapt 53% to £13.8m – by far the highest organic profit increase in the LB100 that year.

Despite the poor performance, the firm has been making selective lateral hires in recent months, including Wragge & Co’s head of EU, competition and regulation Rosemary Choueka, who departed the Midlands giant for Bristows’ competition team in January, while the firm announced the hire of HowardKennedyFsi corporate partner Louise Eldridge in June.

Major work highlights saw the firm’s patent litigation group, led by heavyweight Myles Jelf, successfully fight a case for claimant IPCom in a high profile patent dispute against HTC.

Withers, meanwhile, saw its net profit drop marginally from £22.5m from £22.4m. Last year the firm recorded mixed results with a 4% revenue increase against a 10% drop in profit per lawyer to £65,000 and a 5% decrease in PEP to £363,000.

The firm last year abandoned merger talks with Speechly Bircham, which has since merged with Charles Russell, after suggestions of a lack of support from the partnerships.

Withers also faced a professional negligence dispute this year, with the High Court ordering the firm in March to pay £1.6m in damages after upholding claims that alleged the misdrafting of a limited liability partnership agreement.

Legal Business

Mid-market feeding frenzy: Addleshaw, Bristows, Field Fisher and Irwin Mitchell unveil lateral hires


The New Year lateral hiring spree has gathered momentum, with Addleshaw Goddard, Irwin Mitchell, Bristows and Field Fisher Waterhouse all announcing new acquisitions today (7 January).

Leeds-based Bill Gilliam will join Addleshaw’s commercial litigation team as a partner after 20 years at Eversheds, where he was head of healthcare and life sciences. His experience includes a secondment as acting head of legal in the commercial directorate of the Department of Health, and cases include procurement disputes for Covent Garden Market Authority and Roche Diagnostics, as well as assisting with the Mid-Staffordshire Inquiry.

Elsewhere, the appointment of tax investigations partner Phil Berwick from Pinsent Masons into Irwin Mitchell’s business legal services (BLS) division takes the number of new hires by the national giant to 20 in two years, and follows on from the high- profile hire of Pinsents’ former dispute resolution and litigation head Nigel Kissack in October. He is joined by Nick Dawson, a legal director in the corporate team at DWF, who joins Irwin Mitchell as partner, and senior corporate associate, Rob Laugharne, who moves to Irwin Mitchell in Birmingham from Shoosmiths.

As a former head of the tax investigations team at McGrigors, now Pinsents, since 2009, Berwick will join Kissack in Irwin Mitchell’s London office. Having left the Inland Revenue 18 years ago where he was an inspector of taxes, Berwick has worked in the investigation teams of various accountancy and consultancy firms, including four years as head of tax investigations at Tenon.

He deals with a range of HMRC’s specialist units, but is principally involved in investigations instigated by HMRC’s specialist investigations and local compliance fraud teams with expertise in advising clients on international disclosure facilities.

Chief executive for BLS, Niall Baker, said: ‘Last year, Irwin Mitchell’s turnover exceeded £200m for the first time and our BLS division played a hugely important role in this success.

‘These latest appointments speak volumes for our determination to keep expanding and are a further sign that senior advisers, not just lawyers, are excited about what we are doing and want to be part of it.’

Meanwhile, shortly after its partners voted in favour of the tie-up with Birmingham heavyweight Wragge & Co last month, Lawrence Graham will see its head of EU, competition and regulation, Rosemary Choueka, leave to join Bristows to become a partner in its competition team.

Head of competition at Bristows Pat Treacy commented: ‘We are delighted to welcome Rosemary to our very busy team. Having gained experience at the European Commission and having subsequently advised businesses on all areas of competition law, she is also experienced in general EU law and on regulatory issues in sectors including technology, healthcare and waste.

‘Our team has grown significantly over the past few years to cater for increased workload, so her arrival is very timely as increased competition focus on high technology industries seems likely to lead to greater demand for sector specialists with a deep understanding of competition issues.’

This comes as Bristows announces the promotion of three associates Dominic Adair and Jeremy Blum (intellectual property); and Adrian Sim (IT) to partnership in May.

Finally, Field Fisher Waterhouse’s corporate team has been bolstered by the arrival of Mayer Brown corporate partner Mark Walker. Walker, who joined FFW yesterday (6 January) had been a partner at Mayer Brown since 1996 and spent six years in the firm’s Frankfurt office. FFW managing partner Michael Chissick said that Walker’s experience in private M&A, venture capital, family office and private equity investments in the UK and Germany, would fit particularly well with the firm’s strategic focus, as does his experience in technology transactions.

Legal Business

Geek Chic – Bristows


Home to more well-mannered boffins in its all-equity partnership than you can shake a stick at and with no international offices, Bristows is an unconventional LB100 hero. LB meets the co-managing partners of the firm that has outclassed many in the last five years.

You know you’re at a different kind of law firm when you discover that every meeting room in Bristows’ offices is named after a famous scientist. On a miserable, wet December morning, co-managing partners Iain Redford (left) and Mark Watts (right) are sitting in a room named after Michael Faraday, who discovered how magnetic forces could affect the flow of an electrical current. It’s appropriate because there’s no denying that the forces at play at Bristows these days are compelling.