Legal Business

Post-merger chemistry and an absence of crisis mark BCLP launch but firm is yet to settle into its stride

Post-merger chemistry and an absence of crisis mark BCLP launch but firm is yet to settle into its stride

Thomas Alan finds mixed omens in the wake of BCLP’s high-stakes union. A solid start cannot obscure that 2019 will be a crucial period for the Anglo-American challenger

When indications of a merger between legacy firms Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Bryan Cave first emerged in late 2017, there were mixed reactions about the potential union. As Legal Business noted last summer: ‘Confirmation earlier this year that BLP was uniting with a solid US operator, but one whose brand had limited potency in Europe, did not quicken the pulse.’

Legal Business

Double whammy for Ashurst as London head quits for BCLP and Macfarlanes hires former corporate head

Double whammy for Ashurst as London head quits for BCLP and Macfarlanes hires former corporate head

Ashurst London managing partner Simon Beddow and former corporate head Robert Ogilvy Watson have quit the firm to join Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) and Macfarlanes respectively.

A partner at the firm for 21 years, Beddow had led the firm’s City base since 2016 and was previously the firm’s corporate co-head. He will become BCLP’s deputy head of corporate.

BCLP’s co-chair Lisa Mayhew said: ‘At the time of our merger, we said that we would enhance our corporate team in London and hiring someone of Simon’s calibre clearly demonstrates this.  One of his priorities will be to consider which further additions we wish to make.’

Ashurst has appointed real estate finance partner Ruth Harris to replace Beddow as London managing partner, effective today (1 February).

Managing partner Paul Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘Simon wanted to continue in a management role and there wasn’t one available at Ashurst. We want people to be more transaction and client focused.’

He added: ‘I see it as a changing of the guard. We have some amazing corporate partners including Tom Mercer, Karen Davies and Jason Radford. The corporate practice has seen 17% revenue growth over the last year. It’s the strongest it’s been in many years. The departures are not going to impact that.’

Ogilvy Watson, whose 18 years as partner included a seven-year spell in the firm’s Hong Kong office from 2008, has acted on a number of public M&A transactions, including ITOCHU Corporation’s $10.4bn acquisition of a 20% stake in CITIC and Volcan Investments’ £778m offer for Vedanta Resources. He led Ashurst’s corporate practice until Jason Radford took over last year, and is a rare lateral for Macfarlanes, which is beefing up its public company M&A practice.

Macfarlanes senior partner Charles Martin told Legal Business: ‘We see public M&A as an important part of the practice and we see this as a quite interesting year for strategic M&A.’ He added: ‘When the opportunity to have Robert join us came along it seemed very timely.’

He added that the hiring process took ‘weeks rather than months’ and ‘as we got to know him, we thought he would be an outstanding addition to the team’.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

LLP accounts show BLP flagging ahead of Bryan Cave merger as profit fell 21%

LLP accounts show BLP flagging ahead of Bryan Cave merger as profit fell 21%

Legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner was hit by a 21% drop in profit and 3% dip in revenue in its last full financial year prior to its merger with Bryan Cave, LLP accounts reveal.

Last February, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)’s quest for a US tie-up received a shot in the arm when its transatlantic merger with Bryan Cave was approved by partners, with the deal going live in April 2018.

LLP accounts show operating profit at BLP fell from £72.5m in 2017 to £56.9m in 2018 as revenue dropped from £271.2m to £263.6m in the same period. Meanwhile, profit division among members showed a modest 1% drop from £163k to £161k against a backdrop of a 14% increase in the number of members from 152 to 174.

Total compensation paid to management fell by 18% from £13.1m in 2017 to £10.7m in 2018 with the highest paid fee-earner taking home £1.38m compared with £1.4m last year.

Since the union completed, BCLP has moved away from lockstep towards a more US-style remuneration structure.

Meanwhile the firm announced today (29 January) its first financial results as a merged entity. The overall figures for 2018  are only slightly more positive, with revenue rising a meagre 1% to $905m, while profit per equity partner rose 5%. Currently the firm has a combined cash balance of $100m.

Following the merger, both firms agreed to full financial integration from day one, with the firm suffering a hefty tax bill as a result of adopting the US calendar year-end to April and cash accounting. However the firm did raise funds from the sale of New Law outfit Lawyers On Demand to buyout house Bowmark Capital in May last year.

In an interview with Legal Business last year, firm co-chair Therese Pritchard (pictured) said the firm wanted to see revenue growth over the next two or three years. Meanwhile, the firm will be moving into its new London offices later this year, decamping from BLP’s established home at Adelaide House.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Not just a generic consultancy’: BCLP launches in-house innovation and technology arm

‘Not just a generic consultancy’:  BCLP launches in-house innovation and technology arm

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) has continued its spate of innovation launches, combining parts of its transatlantic innovation teams to create an in-house consultancy, Cantilever.

Cantilever will aim to provide an operational and technology sounding board for clients, while also offering practical technology solutions across areas including contract, matter and litigation management.

‘We’re going to work with clients to tell them what technology solutions are out there and what works best, that’s the consultancy side,’ Bruce Braude, director of legal operations and solutions at BCLP told Legal Business. ‘But also we have our own technology with CrossLite, our data management and analytics tool, which was developed in the US but now as part of the merger [of Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner] and the Cantilever launch will be offered to clients on the UK side of the business.’

Cantilever will be led by BCLP chief innovation officer Katie DeBord and the firm’s chief of legal operation solutions, Chris Emerson. Braude, meanwhile, will be part of a wider team that consists of 20 process engineers and data scientists, as well as other legal technologists.

The announcement follows a string of innovation launches from BCLP, the most recent of which was disputes evaluation service Clear/Cut, while in May the firm launched its homegrown legal tech start up Swiftagree.

BCLP aims to make the new consultancy and technology arm a revenue generator for the firm, with in-house legal teams increasingly looking to adopt technology and revise their legal processes.

‘There aren’t many similar things out there,’ Braude added. ‘Cantilever will have a deep understanding of in-house teams and extensive sector knowledge, it’s not just a generic consultancy, and we also have our own technology to bring to bear.’

thomas.alan@legalbusiness

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

Comment: BCLP offers a (slightly) better post-merger pitch than expected

Comment: BCLP offers a (slightly) better post-merger pitch than expected

It would take a generous observer of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) to claim the once sure-footed outfit had managed anything better than an indifferent run in the years preceding its union with Bryan Cave. Having dazzled through the 2000s – a period in which the firm seemed to have single-handedly revived the unfashionable notion of a City mid-tier – the last five years have been a stark contrast. Volatile financial performance, a disastrous run of partner recruitment and tension over its property-heavy direction – all in, it was unclear where the firm was going.

As such, confirmation earlier this year that BLP was uniting with a solid US operator, but one whose brand had limited potency in Europe, did not quicken the pulse.

Nevertheless, sentiment has warmed somewhat as the first integrated transatlantic merger of note for more than a decade went live last month. That is largely because of the absence of immediate fall-out, not an inconsiderable achievement with something as complex as a large US/UK merger. The signals are that the partnership’s mood now ranges between genuine enthusiasm and another group willing to give the tie-up considerable benefit of the doubt, sentiments topped off with relief that BLP has finally taken its mooted BIG STEP. Judging these kinds of combinations – the deals that can get done in the real world rather than the fairytales partners tell themselves – that’s about the best you can hope for.

Judging these combinations – the deals that get done in the real world – the absence of fallout is the best you can hope for.

And to give due credit, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP)’s co-chairs Therese Pritchard and Lisa Mayhew in this month’s interview give a credible and frank account of the thinking behind the tie-up. The near-decade of evidence amassed on the performance of multi-profit-centre law firms has so far done nothing to substantiate the claims their supporters made that the model had no negative impact on partner alignment or client service. Verein-backed law firms have in general been outperformed by comparable integrated rivals in the last five years. Under the circumstances, BCLP’s focus on immediate financial and governance union is laudable. It is also promising that there is talk of pressing for a more driven culture. BLP had reached the limits of what could be achieved with its real estate business. Fresh progress will require pushing further outside its heartlands, even if there will be scepticism of its scope to improve dramatically in mainstream transactional disciplines. No-one disputes that BCLP needs to show it can be a home for ambitious lawyers beyond property in Europe. The firm will also benefit from a substantial cash injection, having just sold its 62% stake in Lawyers On Demand, a move that should have fetched a decent sum (it is, however, surprising it did not retain a modest stake as a tactical investment).

Ultimately, success will hinge on if BCLP proves something like a genuine merger rather than the graceless, grudge-strewn takeovers that have so far defined legal tie-ups across the Atlantic. And that will take a lot more than some warm fuzzies from the troops and some fluent communication from the top at the first partners’ conference in Florida. But it is a start.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

For more on BCLP see our interview with BCLP’s Lisa Mayhew and Therese Pritchard: Eyes on ‘the prize’ – BCLP’s leaders on going all-in for transatlantic union

Legal Business

Refreshing revamps: EDF and Co-op Group look to new firms in panel reviews

Refreshing revamps: EDF and Co-op Group look to new firms in panel reviews

One of the UK’s big six energy suppliers, EDF Energy, has nearly halved its external advisers in a bid to plug into ‘deeper’ relationships, while the addition of two new firms mirrors the refreshment seen elsewhere in the Co-operative Group’s revamped legal panel.

In late April, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) were added to EDF’s new panel of eight firms, which has been cut from the previous 14.

Legal Business

BCLP: A slightly better sales pitch than expected

BCLP: A slightly better sales pitch than expected

It would take a generous observer of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) to claim the once sure-footed outfit had managed anything better than an indifferent run in the years preceding its union with Bryan Cave. Having dazzled through the 2000s – a period in which the firm seemed to have single-handedly revived the unfashionable notion of a City mid-tier – the last five years have been a stark contrast. Volatile financial performance, a disastrous run of partner recruitment and tension over its property-heavy direction – all in, it was unclear where the firm was going.

As such, confirmation earlier this year that BLP was uniting with a solid US operator, but one whose brand had limited potency in Europe, did not quicken the pulse.

Legal Business

Eyes on ‘the prize’ – BCLP’s leaders on going all-in for transatlantic union

Eyes on ‘the prize’ – BCLP’s leaders on going all-in for transatlantic union

LB: What was the background to the merger talks?

Therese Pritchard (TP): I started it. It’s my fault. In February of 2017, I was interested in strategic growth. So looking for a firm that had the same culture and practice areas that are successful or where they were interested in growing. I did some reading. I saw enough that looked interesting that it was worth a call to Lisa. One chat led to another and eventually we invited more partners to the discussions and decided this looked like a great fit.

Legal Business

New Law pioneer LOD primed for growth as BCLP sells to buyout house

New Law pioneer LOD primed for growth as BCLP sells to buyout house

Lawyers On Demand (LOD) has secured new private equity backers in place of parent Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) as the New Law pioneer gears up for a growth drive aimed at positioning it as a global player.

Buyout house Bowmark Capital is acquiring BCLP’s entire stake of 62% in LOD for an undisclosed sum. The sale is expected to carry a multi-million pound price tag and represent a significant windfall for BCLP, which was formed by the merger earlier this year of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and US law firm Bryan Cave.  James Lever at Livingstone Partners advised BCLP and LOD’s shareholders, while Stephenson Harwood advised Bowmark on the deal with a team lead by Jonathan Pittal. Jessica Adams at Macfarlanes advised for LOD and Alex Lewis at Baker McKenzie represented the management.

The contract lawyer business, which launched back in 2007 as part of BLP, two years ago merged with Australia’s AdventBalance, and last year posted global turnover of £35m, up 15% annually. The firm, which has operated as a separate business to BLP for six years, has expanded dramatically over the last decade to become one of the most high profile New Law brands in the UK.

Further weakening its links with BCLP will not only prime the business for further growth but make it easier for LOD to build on the 2015 deal with DLA Piper to widen its services to other major law firms. The business had initially focused largely on providing locum lawyers and services to in-house legal teams. After the sale, LOD will maintain a contractual relationship with BCLP to provide services.

‘We absolutely will be working with other law firms, but it wasn’t the primary driver for [the sale],’ LOD co-founder Simon Harper (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘It’s about a faster growth model with new service lines in new territories. It does feel like an important next step. The level of interest and excitement in the sector made the process very easy.’

LOD managing director Tom Hartley commented: ‘This deal was three to four months in the making. We wanted to make sure we had the right partners to back the growth model we have in place here.’ LOD expects to see double-digit revenue growth this year.

LOD has ten offices including multiple sites in each of Australia and Asia, as well as London, New York, Munich and Dubai. It has more than 650 lawyers and consultants on its books and more than 500 corporate and law firm clients. Bowmark, meanwhile, invests in UK mid-market companies and has £850m under management.

BCLP partner Neville Eisenberg commented: ‘BCLP has committed to remain close to LOD, partnering with the business for its flexible lawyer needs and we look forward to seeing the results of this exciting new chapter in LOD’s development.’

BCLP, meanwhile, has far from turned from legal innovation after earlier this month announcing the launch of legal tech start-up in Swiftagree.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk