Legal Business

NRF asks staff to cut working hours by a fifth and defers partner pay in re-introduction of financial crisis-era flexi scheme

NRF asks staff to cut working hours by a fifth and defers partner pay in re-introduction of financial crisis-era flexi scheme

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) is asking its staff to agree to a 20% cut of weekly working hours and delaying profit distribution to partners in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The firm announced today (20 April) it is asking its employees to sign up to a temporary change of their contract for one year from 20 April which will make them eligible to move to 80% of their working hours and base salary.

The scheme is similar to the one the firm adopted in 2009-10 in response to the global financial crisis and will apply to its offices in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Participation to the scheme is voluntary, with NRF aiming to have 75% of its staff signed up to make it economically viable. If the target is not reached the firm will reassess its position.

The salary reduction will be tapered, with lower earning employees seeing their wages cut by 5%. The firm is also deferring the partner profit distributions and bonuses as well as salary rises and bonus payments for staff.

EMEA managing partner Peter Scott said in a statement: ‘In this current crisis, we believe it is prudent to take pre-emptive action to protect our people and our business. The key for us is to ensure that we can respond rapidly to any future changes in levels and types of work at an unprecedented time for the global economy. We know this is a challenging time for all of our people and we want to safeguard jobs as far as possible.’

He added that because it was ‘likely that not all parts of the business will be adversely affected by the current situation’, it was possible that employees who have signed up to the scheme in some parts of the business will not be required to reduce their working hours.

Scott concluded: ‘Flex worked exceptionally well for us a decade ago, which is why we are proposing a similar flexible working strategy aimed at keeping our workforce intact. We believe that if we keep the firm together we will maintain the strength of the business to take immediate advantage of the upturn when it arrives and provide our clients with continuity of service.’

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Big-ticket M&A back on track as Cleary and NRF lead on Alstom’s €6.2bn rail acquisition

Dealwatch: Big-ticket M&A back on track as Cleary and NRF lead on Alstom’s €6.2bn rail acquisition

Amid a relative dearth of substantial European buyouts recently, the proposed €6.2bn acquisition by France’s Alstom of the rail business of Canadian counterpart Bombardier will come as a boon for the international offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Norton Rose Fulbright.

Alstom said on Monday (17 February) it had signed an agreement with Bombardier and its shareholder the Canadian pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to acquire 100% of the shares in Bombardier Transportation for between €5.8bn and €6.2bn.

As part of the deal, CDPQ will convert its current €2bn investment in Bombardier Transportation into shares in Alstom and will also invest another €700m in the French rail company, making it Alstom’s largest shareholder with 18%.

The extensive Cleary team advising Alstom was led by M&A partner Pierre-Yves Chabert with London partner Nallini Puri advised on UK corporate matters. Richard Sultman advised on tax from London.

Norton Rose advised Bombardier while Jones Day advised on the antitrust and competition aspects of the deal. Jones Day partner and co-head of antitrust and competition Bernard Amory led from the US. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP advised Bombardier’s financial advisor Citigroup.

Last year Alstom attempted a merger with German company Siemens with plans to create a European rail champion. The merger failed following a block from EU antitrust regulators. Bombardier has been disposing of several parts of its business recently and last year sold its regional jet business to Japanese engineering company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Meanwhile, Travers Smith advised TA Associates on the proposed sale of Merian Global Investors Limited to UK fund management group Jupiter Fund Management for £390m, paid through the issue of new Jupiter shares to Merian shareholders. The deal will create a combined portfolio of £65bn assets under management.

Merian provides investment expertise across major asset classes in fixed income, global emerging market equities, alternatives and global asset allocation. Jupiter Fund Management mainly manages investment trusts and private client portfolios as well as mutual funds, segregated mandates and investment trusts with investments worth £44.1bn for individuals and institutions across the UK and internationally. Jupiter’s fund covers equities, fixed income, multi-asset, multi-manager and alternatives asset classes.

The Travers team was led by head of private equity and financial sponsors and co-head of corporate Paul Dolman. Partner Tim Lewis provided financial regulatory advice, partner Simon Skinner advised on tax, Partner Philip Cheveley advised on equity capital markets and Partner Mahesh Varia advised on incentives and remuneration.

A Macfarlanes team led by M&A partner Luke Powell also advised Merian. Jupiter Fund was advised by Fenchurch Advisory Partners.

Speaking to Legal Business Dolman said that the deal brought together two market-leading asset managers and required a sizable Travers team, covering regulatory, public company, employment benefits and private equity specialisms.

‘We are seeing more and more trade buyers. Jupiter is a trade buyer, but quite unusual because it’s listed. The synergies that a trade buyer can bring gives them an advantage compared to a financial sponsor. It is consistent with what we are seeing in the market,’ said Dolman.

Finally, Travers also advised its long-term client Silverfleet Capital Partners on the acquisition of Danish-based credit management service provider Collectia.

The Travers team was led by private equity and financial sponsors partner Will Yates and worked alongside Danish firm Bruun & Hjejle on the cross-border transaction. Collectia was advised by Macfarlanes with a team led by partner Kirstie Hutchinson.

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

LLP: CMS lifts profit amid Hong Kong and Istanbul restructuring as year-end move dampens NRF’s turnover

LLP: CMS lifts profit amid Hong Kong and Istanbul restructuring as year-end move dampens NRF’s turnover

Operating profits at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang rose 20% to £192.8m after the firm restructured its Hong Kong and Turkish offices, the LLP accounts have revealed.

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) also filed its LLP books this week (31 January), showing a £2m decrease in revenue in its EMEA business to £480.7m following a move to the US calendar year-end in 2018.

The profit increase in the year to April 2019 at the 11 UK and 18 overseas offices under CMS’ UK LLP came despite a 13% rise in the firm’s pension contributions to just over £6m. The strong growth in the firm’s profits came amid a 5% turnover growth to £545.4m.

The accounts also revealed changes to the set-up of the Hong Kong and Istanbul offices, with CMS’ UK partnership ending its joint venture agreements in those two jurisdictions in February and January last year respectively.

CMS had opened its Hong Kong branch in 2016 as a joint venture between the UK and German partnerships, and in May 2018 it had formed an alliance with Hong Kong firm Shirley Lau & Co with a view to practising local law.

The LLP books showed the office has since February 2019 been operated only by the German member firm of CMS’ international alliance, CMS Hasche Sigle.

In Turkey meanwhile the firm put an end to its joint venture with local firm YBBK in January last year, and has since been operating through an association with the same firm.

As a result of the reshuffling, the Hong Kong and Turkish offices contributed just £13k and £69k respectively to the UK LLP’s billings in 2018/19, compared to £552k and £661k the year before.

A spokesperson for the firm told Legal Business that the changes were ‘a technical point of entity structure that in no way reflects our growth strategy’.

The LLP books also showed the firm has continued paying off the pension debt it inherited from legacy Nabarro, which stood at £17.2m when the firms merged in 2017.

As part of the recovery plan the firm has agreed to pay £1.25m in the current financial year and aims to eliminate the debt by May 2022.

After the three-way union with Nabarro and Olswang the firm also set up a £85m rolling credit facility with Lloyds Bank and RBS to finance merger costs, which this year’s accounts show was reduced to £65m in July 2018.

‘The costs of the merger have now been paid for and we ended the year in a strong positive cash position of £45m,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Given the strength of our business we have a reduced credit need.’

Staff costs rose 7% to £197,300 amid a 12% increase in fee-earner headcount to 1,738 and a 17% rise in support staff to 957. The average number of equity partners decreased by three to 373.

The total remuneration for firm’s management personnel in the year was up 8% to £4.3m, although the firm’s highest paid partner took home roughly the same as the previous year – £1.083m compared to £1.001m.

Meanwhile, the LLP books for NRF’s EMEA business showed a 5% fall in operating profits to £124.7m amid a slight decrease in turnover.

Speaking to Legal Business, the firm’s chief operating officer Rod Harrington connected the fall to the firm’s decision in 2018 to shift from the April year-end to the US calendar-year end reporting in a move to a more integrated global verein.

‘2018 was the first time we had a December year-end,’ Harrington said. ‘When we got to April, which is our statutory year-end [for the EMEA LLP], anything billed we can record as revenue; whereas any unbilled work can only be partially recognised as accrued income.’

The firm estimated that, like most firms, about 20-25% of its billing tended to be done towards the end of the calendar year and were therefore not fully accounted for in last year’s LLP books.

He also pointed to a 1.8% increase in cost, largely due to a rise in lawyers’ salaries. In October last year, the firm announced a further 9% increase to its NQ basic salary to £87,500 effective in January 2020, with bonuses of up to 30% on top of that.

Overall staff costs at NRF rose 2% to £213.7m in 2018/19 despite the average number of employees growing by just one to 2,232.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

International round-up: Squires enters Italy as NRF shuts Bahrain outpost

International round-up: Squires enters Italy as NRF shuts Bahrain outpost

Squire Patton Boggs has entered the Italian legal market with a four-partner Milan base while Norton Rose Fulbright has become the latest to join a long series of office closures in the Middle East.

Squires said today (23 January) it has picked the Northern Italian city for its 45th office with a team from US rival Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, led by Italy managing partner Galileo Pozzoli.

Partners Daniela Sabelli, Ian Tully and Fabrizio Vismara will also join Pozzoli in the new office, which will start operating in the coming weeks. The team focuses on energy law, transactions, cross-border disputes and international arbitration.

The move makes Squires the latest entrant in a jurisdiction that has historically proven difficult to crack for foreign counsel, with international firms struggling to build momentum amid an active lateral market where top rainmakers are not inclined to take orders from abroad.

Paul Hastings left the country after 14 years last October when Milan chair Bruno Cova quit the US firm for Studio Legale Delfino e Associati Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Although firms including Latham & Watkins and Linklaters have managed to build relatively successful operations, they are not immune to senior departures either. In 2019 Latham lost well-regarded Milan banking partner Andrea Novarese to US rival White & Case while Linklaters saw corporate partner Giovanni Pedersoli return to the firm that carries his name after 12 years.

But the complexity of the market has not scared international firms away, with Greenberg Traurig announcing last May a merger with local ally Santa Maria Studio Legale.

Elsewhere, NRF confirmed today it had shut its Bahrain office at the end of last year, relocating its only local partner Joanne Emerson Taqi to Sydney. The Bahrain closure comes just two years after the firm left Abu Dhabi, leaving NRF with only two regional bases in Dubai and Riyadh.

NRF is part of a long list of international firms that have been retrenching in the Middle East lately, often after overinvesting during the oil boom in the 2000s.

Earlier this month Winston & Strawn concluded its five-year spell in the region by closing its Dubai base, with Squires recruiting the bulk of its ten-lawyer local team. Weil Gotshal & Manges also left the region altogether in February 2017, while firms including Simmons & Simmons, Latham & Watkins, Vinson & Elkins and Herbert Smith Freehills have closed their Abu Dhabi offices to focus on Dubai.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

NRF London partner promotions flat at eight in North America-focused round

NRF London partner promotions flat at eight in North America-focused round

Norton Rose Fulbright has promoted 48 lawyers to partner and five to the South African partner-equivalent role of director, increasing its intake on last year’s 46.

Promotions in its City base stayed the same as last year at eight, however, as the firm focused heavily on its American business, which accounted for more than half of the intake. The firm minted 13 lawyers in the US and 14 in Canada.

Europe also saw 14 promoted, Australia five and Asia just two, both in Singapore.

London remained the office with the largest partner intake, followed by Montreal at six and New York at four. The firm’s three Texan branches in Austin, Houston and Dallas saw six lawyers promoted between them.

Female lawyers accounted for 42% of the promotions globally, a slight improvement on last year’s 39%.

Five out of eight of the lawyers minted in the City are in the finance practice: Daniel Cowdy, Alexandra Dunn, Daniel Giemajner, Richard Green and Matthew Thorn. Christopher McCarthy was added to the City corporate practice, Shane O’Reilly to pensions, and Charlie Weston-Simons to disputes.

Finance and litigation welcomed the highest number of new partners globally at 12 apiece, followed by corporate’s ten. IP and projects saw four promotions each and tax had two. The other lawyers were promoted in antitrust (two); restructuring (two); real estate (two); employment; pensions; and regulation and investigations.

This is the second time NRF has announced its partnership promotions in January rather than the spring: the firm shifted its financial reporting to the US calendar year-end in 2018 in a symbolic move towards a more integrated business for a verein firm that operates in five profits centres around the world.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

NRF partner promotions in full:

Australia

Ka-Chi Cheung (corporate, M&A and securities, Melbourne)

Helen Macpherson (intellectual property, Sydney)

Deanne Ogilvie (real estate, Sydney)

Jonathon Turner (bankruptcy, financial restructuring and insolvency, Sydney)

Bernie Walrut (bankruptcy, financial restructuring and insolvency, Sydney)

Canada

Maya Angenot (dispute resolution and litigation, Montreal)

Alison Babbitt (banking and finance, Ottawa)

Thomas Collopy (corporate, M&A and securities, Calgary)

Catherine Daigle (intellectual property, Montreal)

Carole Diop (intellectual property, Montreal)

Vincent Filiatrault (corporate, M&A and securities, Montreal)

Michèle Friel (banking and finance, Montreal)

Jenya Hammond (projects, Vancouver)

Christopher Horte (banking and finance, Vancouver)

Éric Lallier (employment and labor, Montreal)

Andrew McCoomb (dispute resolution and litigation, Toronto)

Kelly Moffet-Burima (dispute resolution and litigation, Calgary)

Stephen Nattrass (dispute resolution and litigation, Ottawa)

Trevor Zeyl (corporate, M&A and securities, Toronto)

Europe

Constanze Bandilla-Dany (dispute resolution and litigation, Hamburg)

Luigi Costa (banking and finance, Milan)

Daniel Cowdy (banking and finance, London)

Alexandra Dunn (banking and finance, London)

Bernhard Fiedler (banking and finance, Frankfurt)

Daniel Giemajner (banking and finance, London)

Richard Green (banking and finance, London)

Jurriaan Jansen (corporate, M&A and securities, Amsterdam)

Christopher McCarthy (corporate, M&A and securities, London)

Shane O’Reilly (pensions, London)

Torsten Sauer (corporate, M&A and securities, Luxembourg)

Tim Schaper (antitrust and competition, Hamburg)

Matthew Thorn (banking and finance, London)

Charlie Weston-Simons (dispute resolution and litigation, London)

Asia

Sue Ann Gan (banking and finance, Singapore)

Janelene Chen (banking and finance, Singapore)

South Africa (promoted to directors)

Candice Gibson (tax, Johannesburg)

Raghemah Hendricks (projects, Johannesburg)

Yolanda Mackay (dispute resolution and litigation, Johannesburg)

Sentebale Makara (dispute resolution and litigation, Johannesburg)

Chloë Merrington (real estate, Cape Town)

United States

Kim Caine (regulation and investigations, Washington, DC)

Stephanie DeBrow (intellectual property, Austin)

Caileen Kateri Gamache (projects, Washington, DC)

John Herring (dispute resolution and litigation, Dallas)

Luke Maher (dispute resolution and litigation, St. Louis)

Purvi Maniar (corporate, M&A and securities, St. Louis and New York)

Trevor Pinkerton (corporate, M&A and securities, Houston)

Rachel Roosth (dispute resolution and litigation, Houston)

Henry Stark (corporate, M&A and securities, Dallas)

Gerald Stein (antitrust and competition, New York and Washington, DC)

Richard Susalka (projects, New York)

Peter Tipps (dispute resolution and litigation, Houston)

Richard Wright (tax, New York)

Legal Business

Revolving doors: DLA wins back Proskauer real estate partner as Macfarlanes and Dentons make City hires

Revolving doors: DLA wins back Proskauer real estate partner as Macfarlanes and Dentons make City hires

City lateral recruitment picked up pace again last week as DLA Piper won back a real estate partner from Proskauer Rose, Macfarlanes hired for its financial services team and Dentons strengthened its employment bench.

Joanne Owen rejoined her old firm DLA after a three and a half-year stint in Proskauer’s City corporate team, having previously worked at DLA for nearly 20 years. She advises on institutional and corporate property matters and cross-border corporate real estate transactions. She has acted for leading private equity houses, sovereign wealth funds and private high net worth investors.

The firm has also added partner Katie Jacobson to its real estate practice in Birmingham from Hogan Lovells. Jacobson, who advises institutional investors across the retail, office and industrial sectors, will join DLA at the end of this month.

Elsewhere, Macfarlanes has hired Eversheds Sutherland financial services partner Andrew Henderson, who is set to join his new firm in early 2020.

Senior partner Charles Martin told Legal Business: ‘Andrew is an outstanding fit for us given his focus on investment management clients. He offers particular expertise in retail funds, AIFMD (alternative investment regulation) and international issues, all of which are important to many of our clients.

‘All regulated financial services businesses are dealing with a huge amount of regulatory change and active intervention from regulators. This impacts our clients in the financial services industry. They look to us for joined up advice spanning all the legal aspects of the sector that matter most to them. This almost always includes regulation and quite often means that they look to us to support them when they make important judgement calls in the regulatory field,’ added Martin.

Dentons has added to its UK people, reward and mobility team in London with the hire of employment partner Purvis Ghani from Stephenson Harwood.

Dentons’ head of UK people, reward and mobility practice, Virginia Allen, commented: ‘With [Purvis’] broad range of experience across multiple areas of employment and discrimination law, his expertise will enhance our offering which handles a full suite of UK employment, pensions, employee benefits and immigration matters for our clients worldwide.’

Meanwhile, Norton Rose Fulbright has hired tax partner Florent Trouiller for its Luxembourg office from Dechert. Trouiller has experience in cross boarder private equity and real estate investment and has advised clients on all tax aspects of capital markets and securitisation transactions.

EMEA head of tax at Norton Rose Fulbright, Dominic Stuttaford, commented: ‘In the last few years, Luxembourg’s significance as a jurisdiction for financial institutions has grown, and its tax regime has become more complex. Therefore, a strong tax capability in Luxembourg underpins our pan-European and international tax offering.’

The Luxembourg office opened in June 2017 with three partners and is now operating with more than 18 fee earners across various practice areas.

Finally, Taylor Wessing has hired back its former Dubai head of corporate and co-managing partner Osama Hassan after an eight-year stint at Pinsent Masons. He joins as the firm’s Dubai managing partner and was previously head of the Middle East group and the corporate practice at Pinsent Masons.

Managing partner Shane Gleghorn commented: ‘Osama is widely recognised in the UAE market. We have a long-established platform in Dubai and our international client base has evolved significantly in TMC and private wealth. These are areas that we are known for being strong in and Osama’s experience across family owned businesses and technology in the region are hard to compete with.’

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Norton Rose enters associate pay war putting NQs in line for £114k paycheque

Norton Rose enters associate pay war putting NQs in line for £114k paycheque

Top-performing newly qualified (NQ) solicitors at Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) will be in line to take home up to £114,000 as the firm becomes the latest to increase its starting rates amid an escalating war for associate talent in the City.

NRF confirmed today (9 October) a 9% rise to its NQ basic salary to £87,500 effective in January 2020, with bonuses of up to 30% on top of that.

A spokesperson said it was essential for the firm to ‘attract and retain high quality people’ and ‘ensuring our salaries are competitive is key to achieving this’.

NRF is the latest to confirm a six-figure pay package for NQs after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in May announced one of the largest real-term pay rises in the City for a decade amid increasing pressure for associate talent from US rivals.

A few weeks after Freshfields raised its starting rate from £85,000 to £100,000 plus bonuses, all four of its Magic Circle rivals followed suit. Clifford Chance (CC) announced a £100,000 package including bonus at the beginning of June, matched by Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy and Linklaters shortly afterwards.

The competition widened well beyond the Magic Circle over the summer, with Ashurst announcing a 9% pay increase to £105,000 after firms including Macfarlanes, Travers Smith and Herbert Smith Freehills made similar moves.

In July, Baker McKenzie announced an eye-catching 23% increase to its starting rates to a minimum of £95,000, with performance-related bonuses bringing earnings to over £100,000.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Paul Hastings and Slaughters react on nuclear sale as Magic Circle duo imbibes Greene King takeover

Dealwatch: Paul Hastings and Slaughters react on nuclear sale as Magic Circle duo imbibes Greene King takeover

August has proved to be active with big-ticket deals prompting inbound investment to the UK with the disposal of John Wood Group’s nuclear business to US-based Jacobs Engineering Group, as well as the sale of Greene King to Hong Kong’s CKA Group.

Paul Hastings advised Jacobs Engineering Group on its acquisition of John Wood Group’s nuclear business in the UK, Europe and the Far East for a cash consideration of roughly £250m.

The deal is part of Wood’s strategy to offload its non-core areas and to lower its debt levels following its acquisition of Amec Foster Wheeler in 2017. The deal is subject to conditions including competition clearance and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Jacobs, a New York Stock Exchange listed company, is a provider of technical services and has an expansion strategy for its complementary areas of aerospace, technology and nuclear.

The Paul Hastings team, led by London-based M&A partner Roger Barron, included managing partner Ronan O’Sullivan and M&A partner Matthew Poxon, both in London.

John Wood Group was advised on the transaction by a Slaughter and May team led by corporate partners Simon Nicholls and Filippo de Falco and included competition partners Lisa Wright and Bertrand Louveaux, pension and employment partners Padraig Cronin and Daniel Schaffer as well as data protection partner Rebecca Cousin.

Barron told Legal Business: ‘This is just the sort of deal that I joined Paul Hastings to do – transatlantic M&A for a major US company, where we can provide the sector expertise as well as deal execution capability on both sides of the pond.

‘Jacobs has a very clear strategy for using M&A to expand into profitable and complementary areas. This is seen as a good business and works well with their existing strategy. For this deal about 90% of the business is UK. You could see this as a US company being confident in the prospects of a UK business,’ added Barron.

Meanwhile, Linklaters won a lead mandate advising pub giant Greene King on its proposed £2.7bn sale to Hong Kong real estate group CKA, with Clifford Chance (CC) advising the buyer.

The 220 year old Suffolk-based brewery has around 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels nationally. Its acquisition follows the takeover of Ei Group by Stonegate Pub for £1.3m last month.

The Linklaters team was led by corporate partners Dan Schuster-Woldan and Nick Rumsby while Lee Coney and Nick Rees led the CC team which also included Alex Nourry (antitrust), Sonia Gilbert (employment) and Matt Taylor (real estate).

Norton Rose Fulbright advised HSBC, the financial adviser to CK Asset Holdings. CKA has agreed to the terms of the acquisition which include a 51% premium on the value of Greene King through its recently formed Cayman Islands based subsidiary CK Bidco.

The Norton Rose team was led by corporate partner Paul Whitelock.

Elsewhere a Ropes & Gray London team, led by private equity partner Philip Sanderson and finance partner Malcolm Hitching, advised private equity firm Duke Street on the acquisition of railway holiday provider, Vacation by Rail.

The US acquisition, funded partially by English law governed facilities, brought together the firm’s English and US law expertise. The deal follows the acquisition of Great Rail Journeys, escorted rail holiday provider, by Duke Street Capital from ECI a year ago.

Andrew Arons at Williams, Bax and Saltzman in Chicago acted for the sellers.

Sanderson told Legal Business: ‘The deal reflects an important trend of PE backed businesses like GRJ seeking growth in the US. This has become increasingly important for ambitious mid-market businesses where a strong European platform is proven and allows PE to support the next step into the US. We are regularly helping businesses in this way.

“The European summer deal market has been favourable for few in PE. The paucity of deals has naturally combined with high price for the deals that do come to market. The B word has left the market as uncertain as it has been for many years and so bolt ons for PE have become a popular means to generate activity from within the portfolio. Better what you know, is a factor in that, as well as the potential for economies and bargains from smaller strategically important deals.’

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

NRF launches legal ops consulting arm with the mind behind Barclays’ radical panel reforms

NRF launches legal ops consulting arm with the mind behind Barclays’ radical panel reforms

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) made an ‘offensive move’ against the much-hyped threat of the Big Four on legal operations consulting with the hire of the well-regarded former Barclays head of external engagement, Stéphanie Hamon (pictured).

Hamon, who quit the bank earlier this year, joins as a fee-earner in August to head the new practice and help ‘in-house departments function like a business’.

Legal Business

NRF hires the mind behind Barclays radical panel shake-up to launch legal ops consulting arm

NRF hires the mind behind Barclays radical panel shake-up to launch legal ops consulting arm

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) is making an ‘offensive move’ against the Big Four on legal operations consulting with the hire of the well-regarded former Barclays’ head of external engagement, Stéphanie Hamon (pictured).

The firm announced today (9 July) that Hamon, who quit the bank earlier this year, will join as a fee-earner in August to head the new practice and help ‘in-house departments function like a business’.

Part of the firm’s innovation programme NRF Transform, the new practice will operate with no hourly rates, and Hamon told Legal Business NRF’s openness to alternative fee arrangements was one of the main factors in her decision to join the firm.

A long-time supporter of reshaping law firm-client relationships, during her three years at Barclays Hamon led the bank’s move to phase out conventional legal panels in favour of a system of ongoing management of its legal counsel from mid-2021.

NRF’s new practice aims to both assist companies set up a legal operations function and help those which already have one on specific projects. It will initially target UK clients but could soon look to expand into continental Europe, Australia and the US.

‘There is a growing need in the market for legal operations advice and there are not many people delivering it,’ said Hamon. ‘The good thing about my position at Barclays was that I was meeting with all law firms and suppliers. NRF quickly became the front-runner because of their forward thinking strategy. They want to service clients in a more holistic way.’

She added: ‘If you ask ten people what legal ops is you will get ten different answers. In my view it is all that helps [GCs] run their legal department like a business. From analytics, demonstrating the value your team can bring to the company, to pricing and relationship management. Some companies already have legal ops teams but the level of maturity can be very different.’

Hamon would not specify how many people will form her new practice beyond saying it was still very much in a ‘start-up mind-set’ and would initially draw on existing resources within the firm before recruiting.

Asked whether it would be challenging to convince companies to instruct a law firm to get help with a function that is ultimately aimed at reducing their legal spend, she said: ‘When you are on the buy-side it is not so much about cutting costs. It is about getting value for money, demonstrating you are getting the right price for the service. Part of the work is about how you drive efficiency.’

She added: ‘It is more an offensive move than a defensive move: if the Big Four can move from consulting into legal advice, why can’t a law firm move from legal advice into consulting?’

Hamon has some experience with private practice. Before joining Barclays in December 2015 she was head of international business development and client service at King & Wood Mallesons for three years. In the 2000s and early 2010s she held several business management roles at Clifford Chance.

Her move to NRF comes after the firm slowed down its international expansion and suffered several losses both in London and abroad.

Last month it lost a ten-lawyer City insurance team to Kennedys in January 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. In July 2018, it lost one of its most senior London partners in the form of veteran litigator, Sam Eastwood, who quit after three decades to join Mayer Brown.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

For more on Barclay’s adviser review during Hamon’s tenure, see Point Break (£)