Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Law Firm of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Law Firm of the Year

At last – the one you’ve been waiting for – we are delighted to reveal the Law Firm of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards. 

Only the most outstanding law firms over 2019 made the shortlist in this, our most prestigious award. Judges were looking for a firm that took the market by storm and achieved more than their direct competitors and peers. Achievements may include – but are not limited to – the successful development of new practice areas, expansion into new international or domestic markets, new client wins, the completion of a strategic merger or acquisition, improved financial performance, or a successful recruitment policy. The winner of this award is quite simply the best in the business right now. 


 

 


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Winner – Eversheds Sutherland 

Eversheds Sutherland emerged as a clear winner. Not only was the firm successful commercially, turning in strong financials and pointing to a number of major new client wins and panel reappointments for global giants, but it has also made a difficult transatlantic merger work under strong leadership; completed a strategic masterstroke with the spin-off of its alternative legal services arm; bolstered its ranks with some prominent lateral hires; and nailed its colours to the mast with firm targets for ethnic diversity.  

Eversheds was the only firm in the top ten of the LB100 to record double-digit revenue growth for 2018/19, building on its 2017 transatlantic merger with a 14% revenue uptick to £890.2m while PEP rose 8% to £886,000. The US project has been a clear success and accordingly, the firm announced new office launches in Chicago and San Diego during 2019. 

However, the decision to spin-off its alternative legal services business into a separate corporate structure, called Konexo, and open that up to outside investment to rapidly scale up was bold and innovative. When Eversheds’ New Law offerings were established in 2011, an initial revenue target of £10m was set. Now at £40m, Konexo is aiming to generate £100m within the next five years and was the only firm to set out its stall so clearly. 

With financial success and strategic acumen in ready supply, Eversheds’ stock has simply grown, both in terms of GCs regularly citing the firm as a go-to adviser to Legal Business but also in terms of attracting noted talent from other firms. This was obvious in 2019 with a virtually unheard of lateral hire from Slaughter and May in Hong Kong – disputes partner Mark Hughes, while the firm boosted its credentials in the upper-mid-market corporate space considerably with the hire of Giles Dennison, the former UK head of corporate at Simmons & Simmons.  

The firm also took the opportunity in 2019 to hold its hand up and point to its shortcomings in terms of promoting ethnic diversity. The firm was clear on its desire to do better and has committed to clear and measurable targets. By 2025 the firm wants 10% of its UK partnership to be comprised of BAME lawyers, with the figure currently standing at just over 5%. Throughout its UK workforce, including partners, the firm wants to hit 14% BAME representation by 2022, with the figure currently sitting at just below 12%. 

Our congratulations go to Eversheds Sutherland, which thoroughly deserves its title of Law Firm of the Year. 

Highly Commended – DAC Beachcroft 

DAC has well and truly turned things around after a period of drift, clearing nearly £40m of debt in the last four years. Revenue at the firm grew 6% to £243m in the year to 30 April 2019, building on an 11% uptick the previous year, and coupled with a 10% increase in profit to £52m. Profit per equity partner similarly increased 8% to £570,000. 

It has been an expansive period for the firm. In 2019, it lured across a five-partner City insurance team from Norton Rose Fulbright while also launching in Paris and Belfast. Meanwhile, in January of this year, the firm doubled its Madrid presence after securing a tie-up with three-partner insurance boutique Asjusa. 

Tougher governance and a more commercial outlook under managing partner David Pollitt and senior partner Virginia Clegg means the future looks bright for this City institution. 

Other nominations 

Addleshaw Goddard  

Back in 2014, not many – if any – would have predicted Addleshaw Goddard would boast one of the highest percentage growth rates in profit per equity partner (PEP) across the Legal Business 100 over the next five years. But with PEP increasing 13% to £730,000 in the 2018/19 financial year, it has risen an impressive 87% over that time. 

Harbottle & Lewis 

The firm has enjoyed a particularly strong run of form over the last five years and 2019 was another exceptional year, with revenue up 8% to  £38.5m – double what it was six years ago. The increase in top line hasn’t occurred at the expense of profitability – the firm ranks 14th in the LB100 across key metrics. 

Kirkland & Ellis 

Described by Legal Business as ‘an evolutionary force in a raw Darwinian sense’, the world’s highest-grossing law firm and one of the fastest-growing firms continues to polarise opinion, not only because it struck out on its own but also because its success has further exposed the soft underbelly of many top-tier firms in New York and London. 

Osborne Clarke 

One of UK law’s success stories of the past five years is undoubtedly Osborne Clarke, which has increased its top line 89% since 2013/14 to  £268.5m, the second-best five-year performance in the UK top 100 – off the back of its international expansion. Although its PEP growth stalled in 2018/19, it has risen 37% since 2014 to £703,000. 

Travers Smith  

This City outlier marked a tenth consecutive year of revenue growth in 2018/19 with an 11% increase in turnover. Revenue at the firm grew to £162.5m for the 2018/19 financial year – good for growth of just under 70% over the past five years – while PEP hit £1.25m. Since 2009, Travers has grown from being a £64.5m business. 

Legal Business

‘Future-proofing’: DAC lifts profit and revenue for sixth consecutive year as Pollitt secures second leadership term

‘Future-proofing’: DAC lifts profit and revenue for sixth consecutive year as Pollitt secures second leadership term

DAC Beachcroft (DACB) has notched its sixth consecutive year of turnover and profit growth, the firm’s latest financial results show, while also announcing that managing partner David Pollitt has secured a second term at the helm following an uncontested leadership election.

Revenue at the firm grew 6% to £258m, up from £243m last year, while profit before tax increased 7% to £56m. Profit per equity partner also grew, up a modest 3% to £590,000. Meanwhile, the firm improved its net cash position to £8m, having put in place ‘significant liquidity retention measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis’.

For Pollitt (pictured), the results will be the icing on the cake following his unchallenged leadership election, which will see his second term officially begin 1 November and last five years. Commented Pollitt: ‘Our results reflect, at the group level, yet another year of consistent improvement. I am very pleased we were able to end the year strongly, particularly given the impacts of Covid-19 which started to take hold in the final quarter.

We have taken steps to grow and nurture our business with a view to future-proofing it and making it as resilient as possible – for the benefit of our clients, our colleagues, and our communities.’

Since being first elected in November 2015, Pollitt has overseen an expansive period for the firm. In 2019, DACB lured a five-partner City insurance team from Norton Rose Fulbright while also launching in Paris. Meanwhile, in January of this year, the firm doubled its Madrid presence after securing a tie-up with three-partner insurance boutique Asjusa .

Despite the gnaw of economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19, Pollitt remains committed to international expansion and investment, heralding the firm as ‘financially and operationally resilient as possible, and we anticipate that these efforts will hold us in good stead in the current, straitened times.’

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on DAC Beachcroft’s turnaround, read last year’s management interview with David Pollitt and Virginia Clegg – ‘The DAC Interview – Close to the rocks’

 

Legal Business

Climate change trumps arguments as Leigh Day halts Heathrow’s third runway

Climate change trumps arguments as Leigh Day halts Heathrow’s third runway

Controversial plans for building a third runway at Heathrow Airport run the risk of being abandoned after campaigners led by Leigh Day proved victorious in the Court of Appeal today (27 February).

The case involved five separate claims against the Secretary of State for Transport, who had been pursuing the policy of creating an invidious third runway at Heathrow Airport. However, the policy was deemed unlawful following a successful appeal which rested on novel arguments around the runway’s potential impact on climate change.

‘The main sensitivity of the case was the Paris Agreement,’ Leigh Day partner Rowan Smith, who successfully represented environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, told Legal Business. ‘We argued successfully that the international agreements made under the Paris Agreement had to be considered regarding the runway. The court emphatically overturned the previous decision.’

In the High Court, challenges to the multibillion-pound scheme were rejected as it was deemed the then transport secretary Chris Grayling had sufficiently considered the environmental concerns in the policy.

However, residents, local councils, environmental groups and London Mayor Sadiq Khan all brought judicial reviews of the government’s decision on the scheme. Moreover, the arguments around the government’s commitments under the Paris Agreement – which unites multiple nations in a commitment to combat climate change – proved to be more persuasive than was initially expected by the unsuccessful parties.

‘In our case we think they were wrong on competition grounds,’ Heathrow Hub representative and DAC Beachcroft partner Christopher Stanwell told Legal Business. ‘That’s why we will be seeking permission to appeal it.’

Heathrow Airport is also among those seeking to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court, though the government has confirmed it would not be appealing – making any potential reversal of the decision more challenging.

The dispute brought together an array of legal advisers. Heathrow Airport was represented by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner partner Tim Smith while Arora Holdings was represented by CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang partners Ashley Damiral and Caroline Hobson. DAC Beachcroft’s Stanwell instructed Brick Court Chambers’ Robert O’Donoghue QC and Emma Mockford as well as No5 Chambers’ Martin Kingston QC.

Meanwhile, The Mayor of London’s in-house team instructed Blackstone chambers’ Ben Jaffey QC and Flora Robertson among others, while Leigh Day instructed Matrix chambers’ David Wolfe QC and Landmark Chambers’ Andrew Parkinson for Friends of the Earth.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘We’re taking proximate steps’: DAC doubles up in Madrid with 20-lawyer hire

‘We’re taking proximate steps’: DAC doubles up in Madrid with 20-lawyer hire

DAC Beachcroft is looking for further opportunities in Europe and South America after doubling the size of its Madrid office by combining with a three-partner insurance boutique.

The firm today (21 January) took on 20-lawyer outfit Asjusa, which focuses on professional liability and insurance in the healthcare sector, led by partners Eduardo Asensi Pallarés and Iñigo Cid-Luna Clares. The third partner joining is Julio Albi.

The move effectively doubles the size of DAC’s Madrid outpost, with the two firms having known each other for a while. DAC managing partner David Pollitt (pictured) told Legal Business the combination made sense given clients’ increasing desire to buy more services from fewer firms.

‘A lot of Asjusa clients are existing clients of our Spanish office and to integrate their health insurance business into an existing international office hit a lot of sweet spots for us,’ he said. ‘We will once again become the largest insurance practice in Spain.’

The move follows a period of expansion at DAC, which launched in Paris and Belfast in the last year, as well as expanding its Dublin and Glasgow offices. The firm also brought in a seven-strong team from Norton Rose Fulbright in London. It now has a presence in the UK, Paris, Dublin and Madrid as well as a German partner, Bach Langheid Dallmayr, as part of its international alliance Legalign. It also has offices in Mexico, Chile and Colombia as well as associations elsewhere in South America.

‘Europe’s pretty well covered but of course we have other jurisdictions that insurance clients are interested in,’ added Pollitt. ‘I also wouldn’t rule out us wanting to open our own offices in other countries in Latin America. We’re very much trying to take proximate steps, rather than trying to have an ambition to do absolutely everything all at once.’

DAC has turned things around after clearing nearly £40m of debt in the last four years. Revenue at the firm grew 6% to £243m in the year to 30 April 2019, building on an 11% uptick the previous year, and coupled with a 10% increase in profit to £52m. Profit per equity partner (PEP) similarly increased 7% to about £570,000.

Hamish.mcnicol@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on DAC Beachcroft’s turnaround, read ‘The DAC Interview – Close to the rocks’

Legal Business

Revolving doors: NRF loses insurance team to DAC Beachcroft as Taylor Wessing taps Fieldfisher for life sciences co-head

Revolving doors: NRF loses insurance team to DAC Beachcroft as Taylor Wessing taps Fieldfisher for life sciences co-head

In an otherwise sedate week for City legal recruitment, DAC Beachcroft has proved the exception to the rule for August hiring, adding a seven-strong insurance team from Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) in London.

The team joining DAC was led by insurance litigation partner Kirsty Hick who joined on 1 August and acts for global and London market insurers. She has experience advising on complex coverage and defense issues as well as warranty and indemnity claims. The firm has been trying to grow its high-end international insurance business for the last few years with the London hires being a significant boon to that strategy.

The move follows the hire in May of Liam O’Connell, who was previously head of NRF’s EMEA insurance claims team.

Legal Business: ‘It’s a reflection of how far we have come as a firm, that we can attract the quality of Kirsty and Liam from a firm like Norton Rose to our firm. We can provide them with a very strong platform from which they can further develop their practice.’

‘There’s only three law firms that can genuinely say they offer a full-service to insurance clients and that’s ourselves, Clyde & Co and Kennedys. The market is consolidated around those three firms and as a result some of the other firms are beginning to lose some of their insurance practices’, Pollitt added.

Legal directors Rebecca Bailey and Sarah O’Connell and senior associates Jack Holling, Natasha Marshall and Cathryn Teverson will join Hick at the firm in September.

Elsewhere, Taylor Wessing has hired Alison Dennis from Fieldfisher to co-head its life sciences and healthcare group.

Dennis is experienced in life sciences regulatory and transactional work, and acts for medical device, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The hire of Dennis is intended to fill the whole left by the firm’s previous head of life sciences, Malcolm Bates, who will be leaving the firm for Goodwin Procter. Both Dennis and Bates are currently carrying out their notice periods.

Meanwhile, newly formed London firm Avonhurst has added two ex-magic circle lawyers to its team. Ian Frost joins from Vinson & Elkins but spent over 20 years at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer working on leveraged finance transactions. James Wyatt joins from Linklaters where he was a senior lawyer in global project finance matters, energy and infrastructure sector finance and infrastructure acquisition finance. The firm was formed last month by Jonathan Bloom, previously a capital markets and funds partner at Jones Day. The firm is focused on offering services around legal, legislative and political risk alongside capital markets advice.

Eversheds Sutherland meanwhile hired partners Werner Brickwedde and Simon Weppner in Dusseldorf. Brickwedde joins the corporate team from Clifford Chance and has experience in cross-border transactions while Weppner joins the tax team from Taylor Wessing. He is focused on the tax structure of company acquisitions and investments.

Alexander Niethammer, head of the commercial practice group commented: ‘We can strengthen our position in providing cross-border transaction and tax advice from one of the most important German locations for foreign direct investments.’

Finally, TLT has expanded its real estate capabilities with the hire of Claire Hamilton from JMW in Manchester. Hamilton has experience in property investment, development and finance and also in-house experience from time spent at MCR Property Group.

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

We’re in control: DACB clears debt as revenue lifts 6% in ‘more difficult’ market

We’re in control: DACB clears debt as revenue lifts 6% in ‘more difficult’ market

DAC Beachcroft (DACB) has cleared nearly £40m of debt in about four years, providing the icing on a financial cake which has sweetened for a fifth successive year.

Revenue at the firm grew 6% to £243m in the year to 30 April 2019, building on an 11% uptick the previous year, and coupled with a 10% increase in profit to £52m. Profit per equity partner (PEP) similarly increased 7% to about £570,000.

DACB managing partner David Pollitt (pictured) told Legal Business the result was ahead of budget following three strong years previously: ‘For us, revenue growth isn’t the key indicator. What’s key for us, in a market that people are beginning to find a bit more difficult, is that we’ve improved our profit by 10% and we’ve improved our profitability.’

He added: ‘The icing on the cake is that we turned our net debt position into a net cash position, having started last year with £14m net debt and ending up with £1.5m in cash. That swing is the final piece of the jigsaw in our financial resilience, we’re in control of our business.’

Pollitt, who was appointed as the firm’s leader alongside senior partner Virginia Clegg four years ago, said the firm had improved its cash position by being disciplined in collecting money and controlling costs, having previously ‘drifted close to the rocks’.

The firm had still managed to invest, however. It opened new offices in London, Paris and Belfast, and made lateral hires Pollitt admits the firm would unlikely have made a few years ago: for example, former Norton Rose Fulbright head of insurance Liam O’Connell and Chris Wall, who joined as head of banking from Kirkland & Ellis.

Pollitt said it was continuing to invest and was hoping to announce some big team hires in the next few weeks, as well as having further laterals in the pipeline.

Insurance – which accounts for about 60% of the business – had a strong year, with the firm acting for all of the UK’s top ten insurers, while real estate went backwards in revenue terms.

Looking ahead, Pollitt cautioned the market was ‘not as easy as it was a couple of years ago’. The firm was growing and on-budget so far this year but he believed firms which wanted to grow substantially would do so inorganically.

‘Clients, understandably, are saying, “Why should I do that now? Why should I undertake this brand new IT project now? Why should I refinance?” Off the back of all those decisions hangs a lot of legal work, so everyone’s getting thoroughly bored. It seems like we’re in a holding pattern at the moment, I don’t think there will be many firms knocking it out of the park.’

For more about how DACB turned a perilous position around, read The DAC interview: close to the rocks (£)

hamish.mcnicol@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

The DAC Interview – Close to the rocks

The DAC Interview – Close to the rocks

Legal Business (LB): You have both been in charge for nearly four years. What are some of the highlights?

David Pollitt (DP), managing partner, DAC Beachcroft: One of the first things we decided was to streamline our governance, which Virginia led on. We wanted to become more corporate, leaner and more efficient in decision-making. But we also wanted to be clear about our purpose, our vision, our principles and our business strategy. It took us some time, probably 12 months.

Legal Business

Ashurst makes up eight in the City amid reduced global round as DAC Beachcroft mints 19, RPC six and TLT four

Ashurst makes up eight in the City amid reduced global round as DAC Beachcroft mints 19, RPC six and TLT four

Ashurst has promoted 21 partners globally, including eight in London, after a slightly reduced promotion round which saw Australia and the UK pick up the lion’s share of new partners. DAC Beachcroft, meanwhile, promoted 19 to partner in a significantly bolstered global round while RPC minted six in the UK and TLT promoted four.

In London, Ashurst promoted corporate lawyers Braeden Donnelly, Gaby Jones and Aaron Shute. In tax, meanwhile, the firm promoted Tim Gummer and in competition the firm made up Steven Vaz. Tim Edmonds and Nicholas Hilder were also promoted in global markets and projects respectively, while Emma Johnson was made a disputes partner.

The round is good news for the firm’s diversity numbers, as the promotions will see 25% of the firm’s partnership be female as of 1 May when the promotions take effect.

Overall promotion numbers are marginally down on last year, when the firm made up 24 lawyers globally, including nine promoted in the City. Australia made up the majority of this year’s promotions with nine new partner, while one partner apiece went to Germany, France, Hong Kong and UAE.

Ashurst global managing partner Paul Jenkins commented: ‘The firm is delivering an impressive level of performance and this has enabled us to make a good number of promotions across our offices and practices.’

DAC Beachcroft, meanwhile, announced today (30 April) a significantly increased promotion round. Nineteen new partners have been made up at the firm, an increase of 11 from last year. Four of the new partners are in the City, three of which are in insurance litigation, with the fourth in claims solutions. In the regions, the firm made up four lawyers in Leeds, three in Bristol, two in Newcastle and Birmingham and one in Manchester. Abroad, the firm promoted a single lawyer in Dublin, Madrid and Mexico City.

RPC also announced its promotion round today, with six new partners made up in the UK across its London and Bristol offices.

Commercial lawyer Charles Buckworth, IP lawyer Ben Mark, corporate lawyer Peter Sugden, litigator Alan Williams and tax disputes lawyer Robert Waterson were all made up in London. Professional indemnity lawyer, Rachael Healey, was minted in Bristol.

Finally, TLT has made four partner promotions, down from last year’s six. Commercial lawyer Kuldip Dhanoya, regulatory lawyer Duncan Reed, corporate lawyer Nina Searle and housing lawyer Shazia Bashir were all promoted this year.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Ashurst partner promotions in full:

 

Anita Choi – Corporate, Sydney

James Clarke – Dispute Resolution, Melbourne

Gerrit Clasen – Corporate, Frankfurt

Rebecca Cope – Digital Economy, Sydney

Yvonne Cross – Projects, Dubai

Jacques Dabreteau – Projects, Paris

Madeleine de Garis – Global Loans, Melbourne

Braeden Donnelly – Corporate, London

Tim Edmonds – Global Markets, London

Melissa Fraser – Competition, Sydney

Tim Gummer – Tax, London

Nicholas Hilder – Projects, London

Emma Johnson (née Martin) – Dispute Resolution, London

Gaby Jones – Corporate, London

Caroline Lindsey – Projects, Perth

Dean Moroz – Investment Funds, Hong Kong

Aaron Shute – Corporate, London

Elissa Speight – Employment, Canberra

Julia Sutherland – Employment, Perth

Lynda Tully – Corporate, Melbourne

Steven Vaz – Competition, London

DAC Beachcroft partner promotions in full:

 

Sophie Lawless – Claims Solutions, Birmingham

Kevan Smith – Claims Solutions, Birmingham

Stan Campbell – Real Estate, Bristol

Sara Eaton – Clinical Risk, Bristol

Louise Wiltshire – Healthcare Regulatory, Bristol

Niamh McKeever – Professional Liability, Dublin

Jeremy Bennett – Claims Solutions, Leeds

Shruti Brockett – Business Services, Leeds

Charlotte Le Maire – Claims Solutions, Leeds

Paul McGough – Healthcare Regulatory, Leeds

Sarah Crowther – Insurance Litigation, London

Olu Dansu – Insurance Litigation, London

Andrew Sheppard – Claims Solutions, London

Toby Vallance – Insurance Litigation, London

Pilar Rodríguez – Insurance Litigation, Madrid

Morgan Nash – Claims Solutions, Manchester

Emma Bowens – Claims Solutions, Newcastle

Dawn McIntosh – Clinical Risk, Newcastle

Salvador Enrique Urbano Tejeda – Insurance litigation, Mexico City

RPC partner promotions in full:

 

Charles Buckworth – commercial, London

Ben Mark – intellectual property, London

Peter Sugden – corporate, London

Alan Williams – commercial litigation, London

Robert Waterson – tax disputes, London

Rachel Healey – professional indemnity, Bristol

TLT partner promotions in full:

 

Kuldip Dhanoya – commercial

Duncan Reed – regulatory

Nina Searle – corporate

Shazia Bashir – housing

Legal Business

Clyde & Co, CMS and DAC Beachcroft pick up partners from an ailing Sedgwick

Clyde & Co, CMS and DAC Beachcroft pick up partners from an ailing Sedgwick

As US firm Sedgwick heads towards closure in the New Year, UK-based outfits Clyde & Co,  CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang and DAC Beachcroft have profited by picking up a number of partners.

DAC has hired a team comprising two partners and four associates from Sedgwick that will join its London office in January. This includes Mark Kendall, who led Sedgwick’s London international property and casualty team since 2010 and has also headed the firm’s Latin American group since 2014. Kendall’s practice has a strong focus on product recall and liability in sectors including food and pharmaceuticals. DAC confirmed that Kendall ‘shares a number of key clients’ with the firm.

Disputes partner Duncan Strachan will also be joining DAC in the New Year with a practice that centres on litigation defence in Latin American jurisdictions in addition to the UK and Europe. Alongside Strachan and Kendall, four associates and a non-fee earner will be making the switch to DAC.

Helen Faulkner, DAC’s head of insurance, told Legal Business: ‘While there aren’t many insurer clients that we don’t work with, Mark’s team gives us additional traction with some clients. We needed to build our bench strength in London. Mark and Duncan’s collaborative nature fits well with our culture.’

CMS has also tapped Sedgwick’s London office recruiting partner Tristan Hall. Specialising in financial claims and cyber risks, he will quit the US firm after seven years.

Office managing partner Edward Smerdon is now the only London partner whose destination remains unknown.

Meanwhile Clydes is looking to make a major US play, hiring two partners from Sedgwick to its San Francisco office, while discussions to bring in around 20 additional partners are ongoing.

Aside from San Francisco, Clydes is also in discussions with various other Sedgwick partners across the US. The firm will be seeking to build on the opening of its ninth US office in Los Angeles in July.

A spokesperson at the firm said: ‘We are sorry to hear the news of Sedgwick’s closure. We know many of its lawyers and hold them in high regard. In line with our own growth potential in the US, we are in advanced discussions with a number of its insurance partners, predominantly in California, about the possibility of them joining us. It would not be appropriate to comment further while discussions are ongoing.’

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk