Legal Business

No Buzz Lightyear complex as Kennedys’ revenue tops £200m for the first time

No Buzz Lightyear complex as Kennedys’ revenue tops £200m for the first time

Kennedys senior partner Nick Thomas will be ‘very disappointed’ if the firm does not have another year of double-digit growth after its revenue broke through £200m for the first time this year.

Global turnover at the insurance and shipping specialist for the year to 30 April 2019 grew 11% to £218m, as fee-earner headcount grew 7% to exceed 2,000 for the first time. The firm made a number of lateral hires last year, most recently a 10-lawyer team – including two partners – from Norton Rose Fulbright.

The firm does not publish profit for a few months while it takes a view on the recoverability of debtors and work in progress, but Thomas told Legal Business he expected the firm’s profit margin and profit per equity partner (PEP) to both improve. Last year, the firm’s profit margin was 17% and PEP £401,000.

Thomas said the increase in revenue followed the coming together of various investments it had made in the last few years. The firm merged with US insurance firm Carroll McNulty & Kull in 2017, for instance, with revenue in the region up 16% to £35.9m this year.

‘It’s been a year of a bit of consolidation,’ Thomas told Legal Business. ‘What we were looking for was for all of the people we’ve brought in over the last year or two to have a solid year at the coalface, getting the clients on-boarded and generating the fees, and that’s what they’ve done. It’s lovely when the plan comes together.’

The Asia-Pacific region similarly saw revenue increase by over a quarter to £35.7m, while Latin America more than doubled to £6.2m, with the firm establishing three new associations in each of the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama in March.

Kennedys’ UK revenue was up 8% to £126m. Thomas commented: ‘It’s very easy to suffer from what I call “Buzz Lightyear complex” and only be excited about the new shiny toys. The UK could be called Woody, we’re very pleased it’s still growing and still bringing new clients in.’

Thomas said the firm still needed to fill obvious gaps on the West Coast of the US and in other parts of Europe and would look for opportunities in those areas as they arose.

‘We’ve got the support of the partnership to go out there and do that,’ he commented. ‘All of the investments that we’ve done over the last few years are still bedding in to some extent and growing, so I would be very disappointed if we’re not double-digit growth again this year.’

Legal Business

NRF loses ten-lawyer London insurance litigation team to Kennedys as BCLP hires energy partners from Watson Farley

NRF loses ten-lawyer London insurance litigation team to Kennedys as BCLP hires energy partners from Watson Farley

UK top 30 insurance and shipping specialist Kennedys has raided Norton Rose Fulbright’s (NRF) London insurance bench, recruiting two partners and another eight-lawyers.

Meanwhile, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) hired two energy partners from Watson Farley & Williams and RPC hired a chief operating officer (COO) from Clifford Chance (CC).

In the latest loss for NRF, insurance and marine disputes partners Patrick Foss and Chris Zavos have quit the firm for Kennedys after eight years, alongside counsel Jo Ward, who will make partner in the move.

Foss and Zavos both joined NRF from Barlow Lyde & Gilbert when their former firm merged with Clyde & Co in 2011. Their practice focuses on disputes work in marine, energy, terrorism, trade credit and political risk.

Kennedy’s marine head Christopher Dunn told Legal Business: ‘They are a fantastic team. We have been talking to them for some time, they are close friends of ours and they are market leaders in their sector of marine and energy. It represents a good way for us to increase our market share globally.’

He anticipated further growth in the firm’s 52-lawyer global marine team, with a particular focus on America. The firm recently established associations with firms in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama, expanding its regional footprint to 11 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A spokesperson for NRF said: ‘We have great strength in depth with over 30 partners in our London disputes team, a total of 60 partners across EMEA and 1200 lawyers in our global disputes group. We are committed to retaining a strong profile in London for our insurance and shipping clients across the global network.’

The move is the latest step in Kennedys’ expansion of its marine offering. In 2016 the firm merged with marine and shipping boutique Waltons & Morse and last year it hired a team from Mayer Brown including insurance and reinsurance head David Chadwick.

The firm has also been focused on expanding outside of London over the last two years. In autumn 2017 it launched in Paris and Bangkok after opening in Melbourne that summer.

Last year it opened an innovation back office in India, called Kennedys Kognitive Computing. The firm now counts 37 offices worldwide.

For NRF, this is the latest in a series of losses in London and abroad. In July last year it lost one of its most senior London partners as veteran litigator Sam Eastwood quit after three decades to join Mayer Brown.

In January this year it pulled out of Venezuela, its 26-lawyer local practice joining Dentons, while last year it closed in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi and lost its Tokyo corporate team to Paul Hastings.

Meanwhile, BCLP announced the hire of energy partners John Conlin and Rod Chooramun from Watson Farley. Also a former NRF partner, oil and gas specialist Conlin joined Watson Farley in January 2016 from Andrews Kurth, while energy and infrastructure lawyer Chooramun was promoted to partner in 2017.

In a Monday full of announcements, RPC hired CC general manager Alistair Johnson as its new COO. A member of CC’s management team, Johnson was responsible for operational delivery in the UK for five years. Prior to that he was CC’s IT director for London and the Middle East. He is set to join RPC next September as a board member.

Legal Business

International round-up: Latham hits DLA’s Madrid outpost again for antitrust partner as Kennedys opens innovation back office in India

International round-up: Latham hits DLA’s Madrid outpost again for antitrust partner as Kennedys opens innovation back office in India

Latham & Watkins has dealt yet another blow to DLA Piper’s Spanish ranks, hiring its first Madrid-based antitrust partner, while Kennedys has joined the growing number of firms beefing up their low-cost capabilities.

Former DLA head of competition José Maria Jiménez Laiglesia has succeeded against four other candidates to join Latham’s Madrid outpost, which has almost doubled its headcount in less than a year since bringing in DLA’s former senior partner Juan Picón.

With a nine-strong team led by real estate partner Rafael Molina joining from Linklaters next month, the move means the US firm will have 50 lawyers in Spain come October, up from just 18 when Picón quit his former shop at the end of 2017.

‘The other candidates that showed interest were also good, but the Brussels office which led the process pointed to José Maria as one of the top antitrust partners in the country,’ Latham’s Spain managing partner Picón told Legal Business.

Jiménez Laiglesia’s practice will support Latham’s core M&A and finance operations and will work closely with the firm’s Brussels team. Picón said the firm didn’t plan to expand the antitrust team much further, although it was on the hunt for one associate to support Jiménez Laiglesia.

He is the latest in a long list of European hires by the $3bn firm. Over the last few months alone, Latham has raided the Magic Circle both in London and Germany to boost its transactional prowess.

The quick expansion in Madrid is all the more impressive considering Spain is usually a quieter lateral market compared to its European neighbours.

As for DLA, the firm has lost several partners since the departure of Picón, arguably its most prominent Spanish lawyer. Fellow DLA corporate partners Ignacio Gómez-Sancha and José Antonio Sánchez-Dafos followed Picón to Latham last year too.

It now comprises 81 lawyers including 18 partners, having appointed Joaquin Hervada as new local head of competition. A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘We would like to thank José Maria for the contribution he has made during his time at DLA Piper and wish him all the best for the future.’

Elsewhere, Kennedys has chosen India to strengthen its innovation capabilities by launching a nine-strong business development operation in Kerala.

Kennedys Kognitive Computing will focus on tech development including machine learning and text analytics. Led by Tony Joseph and reporting to the firm’s head of research and development Karim Derrick, the launch of the new company comes after a year-long exclusive partnership with the Kognitive Computing team.

Derrick told Legal Business: ‘The clear differentiator is that the purpose of this team and my primary objective is to produce client-facing products to remove the need to use lawyers in the first place. It’s not about improving efficiency or margins, it’s about helping our clients using lawyers only when they need to.’ He said clients will pay to use products developed by the team on a per-use basis, a model the firm has already applied with its litigation tool KLAiM.

It makes Kennedys the latest in a long series of firms announcing a substantial investment in innovation, as client pressure on costs keeps efficiency high on BigLaw’s agenda.

Perhaps the most significant move of the year was Clifford Chance’s acquisition of the former Carillion Advice Services team in Newcastle.

Closer to home, globetrotting firm Bird & Bird has expanded its Polish dispute resolution team with the hire of PwC Legal head of litigation Adam Kowalczyk in Warsaw. He leaves PwC after two-and-a-half years and was previously an associate at Weil Gotshal & Manges and DLA.

Legal Business

Who Represents Who: Firms that will be affected by the fall of Carillion

Who Represents Who: Firms that will be affected by the fall of Carillion

For more information on Who Represents Who, contact:
David Burgess,
Publishing Director, The Legal 500

Legal Business

Kennedys ramps up expansion at home and abroad with double hire from Mayer Brown and launch of Bermuda office

Kennedys ramps up expansion at home and abroad with double hire from Mayer Brown and launch of Bermuda office

Top-50 insurance specialist Kennedys has continued its rapid expansion both in London and further afield with a double hire from Mayer Brown in the City and the launch of a Bermuda office – the firm’s tenth office launch this year – with local law firm Sedgwick Chudleigh joining the firm’s global network.

In London, Kennedys has hired Mayer Brown’s London insurance and reinsurance head David Chadwick as well as partner Andrew McGahey, who will join the firm’s Dublin office.

Chadwick, who joined Mayer Brown in 1998, handles the full range of contentious insurance matters, including political risk disputes and disputes involving other significant financial insurance issues. Meanwhile, McGahey has extensive experience advising insurers on claims under warranty and indemnity and is cited as a ‘key member’ of Mayer Brown’s corporate insurance team.

The double hire comes as Kennedys becomes the first onshore global law firm to launch in Bermuda, taking more partners from US firm Sedgewick. The office will continue to be led by dispute resolution specialist Mark Chudleigh and follows the move of six former Sedgwick partners to Kennedys New York and Chicago offices since September. Chudleigh will be joined by Sedgewick partners Nick Miles and Alex Potts.

Kennedys claims the move is a major development for its global expansion as it ‘establishes a local presence in one of the world’s most important insurance markets and a leading financial centre’. Given Kennedys clear practice focus, the move to the Caribbean island makes sense as Bermuda remains one of the top reinsurance centres in the world and a leading market for insurance-linked securities products.

A firm statement continues: ‘The development places us in the unique position of being able to offer clients access to some of the world’s leading insurance specialists and litigators in London, New York and Bermuda as well as other important insurance hubs such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Miami and Singapore.’

The move to launch in Bermuda is the next stage of Kennedys breakneck expansion globally. Just earlier this month, the firm announced the opening of new offices in Paris and Bangkok. Kennedys has tapped into a major south-east Asian market through its Thailand launch, building on its pre-established presence in Singapore and Hong Kong.

The firm has also opened in the US through its merger with insurance firm Carroll McNulty & Kull and added offices in Australia, Mexico as well as a formal association in Italy.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Hogan Lovells and OC bolster City ranks while Kennedys ramps up US practice with three-partner hire

Revolving Doors: Hogan Lovells and OC bolster City ranks while Kennedys ramps up US practice with three-partner hire

It has been another busy seven days for senior recruitment, with a host of top 50 UK law firms making senior appointments in the Square Mile and beyond.

In London, Hogan Lovells has bolstered its finance practice with the recruitment of Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) partner Arun Velusami, who leaves the City firm after 11 years, seven of them as a partner. Velusami joins Hogan Lovells’ Africa practice in London and will also be a member of the Anglo-American firm’s energy, infrastructure and projects team. Adrian Walker, global co-head of Hogan Lovells’ energy and projects team, described Velusami as a ‘class act’.

Still in the City, Osborne Clarke (OC) has added to its buyout team, recruiting Squire Patton Boggs’ UK private equity head Tim Hewens. The appointment brings to 11 the number of partners covering private equity at OC.

Eversheds Sutherland, meanwhile, has recruited Jake McQuitty from TLT to strengthen its financial services disputes and investigations team. Before joining TLT in 2015, he was head of EMEA investigations and enforcement at Barclays.

On the international stage, Kennedys, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and Dentons have all announced significant hires.

Kennedys returned to the US to bolster its expanding practice, recruiting from Sedgwick for the second time in a month, taking on the American firm’s Chicago managing partner and two other partners.

The UK-based insurance specialist has recruited Sedgwick partners Eric Scheiner, Dick Geddes and Jennifer Quinn Broda. The team has worked on matters including the Three Mile Island accident, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and explosions at the Piper Alpha oil rig and Buncefield in the UK.

The moves comes after Kennedys in June secured a merger with US practice Carroll McNulty & Kull. Kennedys senior partner Nick Thomas told Legal Business: ‘Since we announced the merger, we have had a lot of calls from a lot of people that say: “The idea of a law firm in the insurance sector with a big US presence and a global footprint looks very interesting, can we join?” It is an attractive platform for many.’

In continental Europe, HSF has hired arbitration partner Thierry Tomasi in Paris from disputes boutique Betto Seraglini. Tomasi specialises in aviation, energy, defence and construction and said he would look to develop his practice into Latin America.

In the Netherlands, Dentons Boekel has recruited a finance team from global rival Baker McKenzie. Former head of Bakers’ Dutch lending team Marcel Janssen will become Dentons’ head of banking and finance in Amsterdam, joining with three associates. The hires comes after Dentons’ merger in April with national practice Boekel.

Legal Business

International moves: Kennedys in double office launch as Bird & Bird plans San Francisco base

International moves: Kennedys in double office launch as Bird & Bird plans San Francisco base

Top-50 insurance specialist Kennedys has made an ambitious bid to further increase its global footprint, today (2 October) announcing the opening of new offices in Paris and Bangkok.

With the launches in France and Thailand, Kennedys has brought its tally of new international offices opened this year to nine.

The Paris outpost is led by a four-partner team hired from French litigation boutique BOPS Avocats and focuses on insurance disputes.

Co-founder and the former senior partner of BOPS Avocats, Christian Bouckaert, is heading the new Paris office, alongside partners Alexis Valençon, Aurélia Cadain and Nicolas Bouckaert.

Kennedys and BOPS Avocats have a shared history, jointly acting on a number of cross-border cases over the years and also possess a significant overlap in important clients.

Kennedys’ senior partner Nick Thomas (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘A Paris office has been important for us all along. It’s important for us to be where clients want us to be, it’s not simply a case of throwing a dart at a map!’

Outside of Europe, Kennedys has tapped into a major south-east Asian market through its Thailand launch, building on its pre-established presence in Singapore and Hong Kong.

The firm’s new two-partner office in Bangkok also has an insurance litigation element, with the outpost being led by Suraphon Rittipongchusit, a former partner of DLA Piper’s Bangkok insurance and litigation department.

Alongside Rittipongchusit is fellow partner Supreedee Nimitkul, who is a corporate and commercial specialist with over 20 years’ experience. Completing the team is senior associate Tassanu Chutikanon and Ian Johnston, a foreign qualified lawyer who relocates from Kennedy’s Singapore office.

On the Bangkok launch, Thomas added: ‘Clients had told us that there was only one other insurance firm there and that they didn’t have any choice. They wanted the product that we’ve got.’

Despite the Paris office being its first office opening in mainland Europe this year, Kennedys has made serious strides in expanding its global operations throughout 2017. The firm has opened in the US through its merger with insurance firm Carroll McNulty & Kull and also added offices in Australia, Mexico and formed a formal association in Italy.

Meanwhile, Bird & Bird has also revealed plans today to open a representative office in the US.

The new hub, based in San Francisco, will advise clients on international disputes, intellectual property and data privacy issues.

David Kerr, chief executive of Bird & Bird, told Legal Business: ‘We have seen a huge request from clients to have lawyers in that time zone and we think that demand is growing.’

Legal Business

Kennedys sustains remarkable growth with NY team as insurance players keep up global push

Kennedys sustains remarkable growth with NY team as insurance players keep up global push

The internationalisation of insurance law continues apace. Just four months after securing a merger with US practice Carroll McNulty & Kull (CMK), Kennedys has taken a New York team from Sedgwick including the firm’s former managing partner, John Blanchett. Partners Christopher Novak and Matthew Ferguson will also join Kennedys alongside three associates.

Blanchett, who headed up Sedgwick’s financial institutions (FI) practice, focuses on commercial crime, fidelity, professional liability, directors’ and officers’ liability and media liability as well as other types of insurance. Novak specialises in insurance coverage disputes and Ferguson’s practice covers both domestic and international coverage matters.

Kennedys senior partner Nick Thomas (pictured) said that the team hire was a substantive move for its institutional practice and would significantly raise Kennedy’s US profile. ‘In addition to complementing our US offering, the team will significantly strengthen our London market capabilities, which is crucial for international FI matters.’

Kennedys merged with CMK in May, adding 43 partners to its offering as well as five offices including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Texas.

Its recent US investments cap off a frenetic period of international expansion for the top 50 UK insurance specialist. The London-based adviser has opened five offices in Latin America since the second half of 2016. In his time as senior partner, Thomas has overseen the firm’s growth into an international insurance player, with offices in locations including Sydney, Hong Kong and Miami.

Recently the firm has also opened offices in Russia and Denmark and formed associations in Norway, Sweden and Argentina. Closer to home, in March Kennedys hired a 24-strong casualty claims team from Hill Dickinson’s Sheffield branch, resulting in the closure of the latter’s operations in the region.

With insurance clients being among the most canny and thrifty on both sides of the Atlantic, London’s band of specialist law firms are increasingly moving to go global as a means of avoiding a race to the bottom of the value chain. With sector leader Clyde & Co already well into a highly-successful expansion programme in the US, the strategy appears to be paying off far more clearly than for larger City counterparts focused on transactional work.

Read more: ‘Is Kennedys keeping up? Insurance player claims innovation and expansion provide the right cover’

Legal Business

‘We are seeing results’: Kennedys’ international growth continues with Melbourne launch

‘We are seeing results’: Kennedys’ international growth continues with Melbourne launch

Insurance specialist Kennedys is continuing to invest in its international operations by expanding into Melbourne through what is its seventh international office opening and eighth lateral hire this year.

The firm’s second Australian base will be led by Michael Kavanagh from local firm Lander & Rogers, where he was a partner.

Kennedys Australia’s managing partner Matt Andrews said the insurance-focused firm is aiming more closely with a number of its ‘local and global clients’ based in Melbourne.

The second Australian opening after the Sydney office in 2006 follows that of five US offices as part of the merger with Carroll McNulty & Kullin May and one in Mexico City in January. The firm now has 28 offices, 10 in the UK and 18 worldwide.

Kavanagh headed the casualty team at Lander & Rogers, where he spent 16 years advising on claims for insurers, brokers, insureds and loss adjusters. Two senior associates, Emily Unger and Uki Murphy, and lawyer Angela Woodward also join from Lander & Rogers.

Senior partner Nick Thomas told Legal Business that organic growth, laterals and international expansion had been the firm’s strategy for some time: ‘It has involved a lot of investment, but fortunately we are seeing the results. The fact that we are in different geographic areas means that we can win more clients.’

Special counsel Nicholas Blackmore will also join the Melbourne practice, transferring from Kennedys’ Hong Kong office, where he advised on IT, commercial and regulatory matters for insurers and large corporates.

Kennedys’ revenues grew by 8% to £149.9m in 2016/17, boosted by a strong western European and South American performance. Disputes accounted for 91% of fee income.

However, the recent international expansion and investment in new technology has meant that profit per equity partner (PEP) stalled at £406,000. The firm increased its lawyer headcount by 13% to 785 in one year and has also put about £3m a year into technological innovation since 2013.

Kennedys is part of a group of top-50 insurance and shipping specialists whose significant top-line growth has not translated into a rise in profitability in the last financial year. Firms focused on the insurance sector are investing to keep up with the increasing need for international coverage, product specialisation and technological innovation to improve efficiency in an increasingly competitive market.

‘Firms doing more traditional stuff are struggling,’ said Thomas. ‘But then again: why are these firms struggling? Because they don’t innovate.’

Legal Business

‘A complementary fit’: Kennedys acquires Manchester outfit Berg & Co

‘A complementary fit’: Kennedys acquires Manchester outfit Berg & Co

Kennedys, which yesterday (28 June) announced an 8% rise in revenue, has acquired Manchester-based Berg & Co, bringing the firm’s 50 staff into Kennedys offices in the city.

Berg provides corporate and commercial, banking and financial regulation, real estate, dispute resolution and employment legal services. The firm is led by founder and senior partner Reuben Berg and CEO Alison Loveday.

The expansion follows Kennedys tie-up with US insurance specialist Carroll McNulty & Kull (CMK), handing the London-based firm five branches across the US. The practice will be marketed as Kennedys CMK in the US. Kennedys also recently boosted its marine and shipping departments through a City merger with Waltons & Morse, adding a 28-strong legal team and five partners.

In a statement, Nick Thomas, Kennedys senior partner said the two firms were a complementary fit, allowing the businesses to offer clients significantly enhanced commercial litigation and complementary services.

‘We are also pleased to be further growing our presence in Manchester. The city’s talent pool and our increased presence there provide a strong platform to source, attract and retain talent.’

Kennedys announced 8% revenue growth for the 2016/17 period, up from £138.8m to £149.9m.

The top 30 UK law firm highlighted European growth as a key contributor to the performance. Kennedys’ continental network saw combined turnover more than double from £6.5m to £14.2m. The firm’s Dublin branch increased income 41%, from £3.5m to £4.9m as the firm invested in the Irish capital by more than doubling its office space last year.

Kennedys also pointed to growth in a number of international offices across the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and the Americas. The firm fulfilled extensive international expansion aims last year, particularly in Latin America, opening offices in Chile and Columbia, while launching greenfield operations in Brazil and Peru.

Additionally, the firm, which has yet to finalise its net income and partner profits, announced that debt had dropped to 14% of turnover, while headcount rose 10% worldwide.