Legal Business

OC’s Berg prepares for rockier roads following re-election to managing partner

OC’s Berg prepares for rockier roads following re-election to managing partner

Osborne Clarke (OC) has elected incumbent UK managing partner Ray Berg (pictured) to a second term in a ‘glowing endorsement’ of the firm’s growth.

But he has cautioned there is still plenty to achieve in ensuring OC was adaptable to tougher times ahead.

Berg was unopposed in being re-elected for a second four-year term and remains on the firm’s international board, OC announced today (24 October). Berg joined the firm in 2001 and became business transactions group head in 2011, before succeeding Simon Beswick as managing partner in 2015. His second term ends on the eve of the firm’s 275th anniversary in 2023.

Berg told Legal Business he would like to think his re-election was a ‘glowing endorsement’ of the previous four years, rather than no one else being prepared to look after the firm ahead of Brexit.

‘Joking aside, I think it’s recognition of the broader leadership team and the work we’ve done since taking over from Simon.’

OC’s senior partner Andrew Saul was also re-elected unopposed to a second four-year term in December last year.

The firm’s most recent financial results in June confirmed a five-year average of double-digit revenue growth, as global turnover rose 14% to €273m: it has increased 112% since 2013, making OC one of the top performers in the LB100 over that time.

The UK accounted for roughly 58% of turnover, and UK net profit grew 17% to £61.2m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) jumped from £642,000 to £711,000. The firm has been adding global offices over the last five years, and in the past year opened in Sweden and Shanghai, the latter under the name Zhang Yu & Partners.

Berg said the firm was largely delivering on its strategy but there was more to do, particularly in regards to people – both internally and clients. He saw an inflection point in the broader business market where traditional models around work-life balance, career ambitions, corporate responsibility and social equality were being disrupted.

‘It would be very easy for me to sit here and say “It’s been a great four years, it’s just going to be more of the same”,’ he commented. ‘But we’ve got to adapt to change, we can’t just keep doing the same stuff.’

OC has introduced various initiatives targeting social mobility, diversity and wellbeing in recent years, with Berg an active advocate. He said the firm would look to proactively report and set clear targets on those agendas, similar to environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting indexes which measure the sustainability and ethical impact of businesses.

‘We’ve shifted diversity as an issue from people recognising it’s important, to it being part of our strategy and not just ticking a box. But we need to shift the dial. I would like to think I could look back in four years’ time and we’ll have made a difference.’

He said market conditions were getting tougher and deals taking longer but activity was still reasonably buoyant. OC was tracking ahead of last year and Berg was confident the firm’s sector focus and international growth had given it a hedge.

‘We know we’ve got rockier roads ahead, without a doubt. You’ve got to be prepared to adapt and flex to the market – the adaptability to change is going to be the hallmark of the firms that continue to thrive and survive.’

hamish.mcnicol@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on the rise of Osborne Clarke over the past ten years, see ‘Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade’

Legal Business

‘We can’t grumble’: Osborne Clarke looks to capitalise on double-digit growth streak

‘We can’t grumble’: Osborne Clarke looks to capitalise on double-digit growth streak

Osborne Clarke (OC)’s leadership duo had two reasons to party in Brussels overnight: it has been five years since the firm opened an office there, and the latest financial results confirmed a five-year average of double-digit revenue growth.

OC posted double-digit growth in both global and UK revenue for the 2017/18 financial year, up 14% to €273m and 15% to £139.3m respectively. Growth rates for both businesses are ahead of last year’s 12% and 7% increases, although down on growth from the year before that.

UK net profit grew 17% to £61.2m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) jumped from £642,000 to £711,000. Its cash resources were steady at £23.1m.

OC UK managing partner Ray Berg told Legal Business the firm had seen consistent performance across all its practice groups and sectors in what he called strong market conditions.

The UK accounted for roughly 58% of the firm’s revenue for the second year running, down slightly from the year before that. Berg said this was about the right split after a period of international expansion.

‘We obviously want to continue to grow the business consistently across all of the offices but we’ve got to a position now where –yes – the UK is still the largest but you can see we’ve got a significant international business as well.

‘We’re beneficiaries of that in the UK, and not just from international workflows, but it also gives us a credence in the UK market with clients we didn’t have before.’

OC has been adding global offices over the last five years, and in the past year opened in Sweden and Shanghai, the latter under the name Zhang Yu & Partners. Simon Beswick, the firm’s international chief executive, told Legal Business attention would shift to growing the operations it had set up.

‘The game for us now is all about adding strength and depth in all of those offices. It’s not going to be about new office openings but what you should be hearing about is adding partners and adding people in those offices, as well as clients and work wins.’

The firm added 32 partners last year – including 15 in the UK – through lateral hires and internal promotions. In the UK it was appointed to the Department for Transport panel for the first time and was reappointed to panels for the Pension Protection Fund and Vodafone.

It also plans to invest in its OC Solutions business, which works on client-specific issues, to more jurisdictions. The team of about ten in the UK and a couple more in Germany has worked on about six projects – including developing a cloud-based platform for Vodafone’s property legal work – and has about as many on the go at the moment.

The key question for OC, however, will be how it can maintain the momentum which has seen it be one of only three firms in the current UK top 100 to have more than doubled its revenue organically since 2012.

Speaking from that Brussels office, which has grown from seven lawyers to 25 since it opened, Berg agreed: ‘That’s the challenge. We’ve continued to set the bar very high for ourselves. The firm continues to grow and get bigger and it is really important we maintain our culture.’

Beswick added: ‘Brexit will at some point change those market conditions but it’s good all around our business at the moment. We can’t grumble.’

hamish.mcnicol@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on the rise of Osborne Clarke over the past ten years, see ‘Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade’ 

 

Legal Business

Better Call Saul: Osborne Clarke re-elects veteran senior partner

Better Call Saul: Osborne Clarke re-elects veteran senior partner

Osborne Clarke (OC), one of only three firms in the current UK top 100 to have more than doubled its revenue organically since 2012, has seen Andrew Saul re-elected as senior partner for a second four-year term.

Saul (pictured), a corporate partner at the firm for more than 21 years and head of that team for seven years, was voted in unopposed to the position he first took on at the start of 2014. He will remain a member of OC’s international council with his re-election.

Saul’s term as senior partner has coincided with an impressive run of growth for the firm. OC turned over £209m in 2016/17, one of the strongest set of results in the UK top 100 this year and 152% up on a decade ago, good for the fifth-best organic performance of an LB100 firm since 2007.

Speaking to Legal Business, Saul said he was pleased the partners had shown confidence in him for another four years, commenting: ‘The figures show that the firm has performed well over the last four years-plus.’

He added that while he was delighted with how the firm has progressed, his focus for the next term would be on consolidating and strengthening its position internationally.

The senior partner spends nearly half his time maintaining his corporate practice, where he is a specialist in digital business, and said he enjoys the blend between a leadership role and working with clients.

The firm has recently been busy expanding globally, including the recent opening of an office in Stockholm led by two laterals. In May, it opened in Shanghai under than name Zhang Yu & Partners, bringing on two partners and six other lawyers. This followed OC’s associations with OC Queen Street in Singapore last August and Hong Kong-based Koh Vass & Co in 2015.

Saul said while the firm was continuing to grow, like every other firm, it was subject to the mercies of the global economy, commenting on the potential headwinds ahead: ‘I wish I knew the answer to that.’

hamish.mcnicol@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on the rise of Osborne Clarke over the past ten years, see ‘Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade’

Legal Business

Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade

Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade

It is dominated by mid-sized firms while global players and City leaders lag far behind. Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) sits in the third spot. You must scroll down nearly 40 positions before finding the likes of Linklaters and Clifford Chance.

It is not the chart for revenue, profits or partner earnings. It is a table of major British law firms’ organic growth over the last ten years, marking the period since the financial crisis.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Osborne Clarke and Morgan Lewis make senior hires as City recruitment takes a breath

Revolving doors: Osborne Clarke and Morgan Lewis make senior hires as City recruitment takes a breath

After an initial flurry of hires in September there has been a pause for breath, leaving Osborne Clarke (OC) and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to bring in senior lawyers in the UK in recent days.

Pinsent Masons has seen financial services regulation partner Michael Lewis depart for UK top 25 rival OC. After a career which has spanned Norton Rose, Linklaters, Simmons & Simmons and a secondment as policy adviser to the Treasury in 2000/01, Lewis spent six years at Pinsents. OC head of business transactions Greg Leyshon said Lewis would help strengthen the firm’s financial institutions practice.

OC has recently been busy expanding globally, with the opening of a new office in Stockholm led by two laterals. The firm also posted one of the strongest set of results in the UK top 100 this year, with revenues up 12%.

Pinsents itself has been recruiting proactively this year and has largely retained its partners. Last week it announced the hire of Chris Richardson from Big Four group EY to lead its forensic accounting service. It also took three partners from Gowling WLG to bolster its Munich arm in February and a new head for its corporate practice in the financial sector in January.

Elsewhere, Morgan Lewis took former A&O counsel Louise Skinner as a partner, joining the US law firm’s labour and employment team. Practice head Grace Speights cited her focus ‘on the intersection of employment and regulatory issues, especially in the financial services and life sciences sector’, as a ‘great complement’ to the team.

Skinner is the latest in a series of City hires for the 1,900-lawyer firm. Earlier this year, Morgan Lewis bolstered its white collar team with two partners from Norton Rose Fulbright’s City base.

marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Revolving doors: International firms return to hiring season with multiple City and global recruits

Revolving doors: International firms return to hiring season with multiple City and global recruits

International law firms have returned from the summer break in acquisition mode, with Berwin Leighton Paisner, Bird & Bird, Taylor Wessing, Reed Smith and Pinsent Masons all hiring in London and Asia, while Sidley, Dentons and Osborne Clarke are expanding their continental European footprint.

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has this morning (11 September) announced the appointment of three new international disputes partners to further strengthen its litigation and corporate risk (LCR) practice.

George Burn joins BLP from Vinson & Elkins as head of international arbitration later this month, while Gavin Margetson, formerly of Herbert Smith Freehills, has been hired to lead the firm’s regional arbitration hub in Singapore. Based in London, Richard Chalk is an international disputes and investigations partner, who was previously at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London and Hong Kong.

BLP global head of LCR Nathan Willmott said these appointments are a direct result of a recent LCR strategy review. ‘The strategy review was an important milestone for us as a department. With so many of the team involved, it’s meant our future really is a collective effort. These hires all demonstrate our intent to get on with the job and start delivering on a global scale’.

Bird & Bird has added to its equity capital market capabilities with the hire of Clive Hopewell and Adam Carling from Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS).

Hopewell will lead the practice expansion in London, building on the Middle East contacts made while heading CRS’s operations in Bahrain. Speaking to Legal Business, he said: ‘Bird & Bird has a very substantial presence in Europe, Asia and Australia. The firm has an established office in Abu Dhabi and an established presence in Dubai. I’ll go there two or three times a year to help introduce them to clients.’

Carling has experience in Africa and has advised on mining deals on the continent. Neil Blundell, head of Bird & Bird’s London corporate group, said the hires would ‘further increase our reputation in the mining and oil and gas sectors’.

Meanwhile, Taylor Wessing turned to Paul Hastings to bring Mark Rajbenbach into its real estate team.

Keith Barnett, head of real estate at the firm – which now has more than 60 lawyers in its core London real estate group and more than 100 working on real estate across the London base – said the addition of Rajbenbach was ‘very exciting for our team, particularly in corporate real estate and the hotels area’.

Rajbenbach was at SJ Berwin & Co before joining Paul Hastings, and his clients have included Invesco Real Estate, Starwood Capital, Evans Randall, Hilton, London & Regional, Schroders and RRAM Energy.

Elsewhere, Reed Smith has hired Leith Moghli as a partner in its global private equity and investment funds practice in London. Moghli left Kirkland & Ellis in April, where he had been a salaried partner since October 2014 in the funds practice.

Pinsent Masons has appointed Chris Richardson to lead its new forensic accounting service (FAS). He joins the firm after 16 years in the fraud investigations team at EY.

In Brussels, Sidley Austin has hired Wim Nauwelaerts from Hunton & Williams. Nauwelaerts advises on EU and international data protection and privacy compliance, including preparation for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

He told Legal Business: ‘Sidley Austin is one of the prominent firms in Brussels and I am very excited about the prospect of expanding their global data protection practice.’

Also in Europe, Dentons strengthened its M&A and capital markets practices with the addition of Shaohui Zhang, who joins as head of the China desk in Luxembourg from Allen & Overy, and Antonella Brambilla in the corporate and M&A practice in Milan from local firm Chiomenti.

Dentons Italy managing partner Federico Sutti told Legal Business: ‘In Italy we see signs of recovery in equity capital markets. Antonella has the standing and the experience to allow Dentons to play a role in this in the near future.’

Finally, Osborne Clarke has announced the opening of a new office in Stockholm, led by Fredrik von Baumgarten and Henrik Bergström. Von Baumgarten joins from his own firm Baumgarten Byström Rooth & Partners and was previously a partner at Nordic firms Hannes Snellman and Vinge, while Bergström was previously at Bird & Bird.

Simon Beswick, international chief executive at Osborne Clarke, said: ‘Not only is Sweden the third most active M&A market in Europe and growing faster than most other European economies, it’s a key market for many of our core sector clients.’

The Sweden office means the firm now has 25 international bases in Europe and Asia.

marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kathryn.mccann@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Linklaters and Osborne Clarke latest to make moves in Shanghai

Linklaters and Osborne Clarke latest to make moves in Shanghai

Magic Circle firm seeks local joint venture as OC opens fledgling practice

Linklaters and Osborne Clarke (OC) are the latest Legal Business 100 firms to make moves in Shanghai, with the Magic Circle firm finally putting its plans in play to practise local law.

Legal Business

OC team sets up boutique as Andersen launches in Cologne

OC team sets up boutique as Andersen launches in Cologne

Six lawyers from Osborne Clarke’s (OC) procurement team have left to establish a new law firm in Cologne, named Esch Bahner Lisch. Andersen Tax & Legal has also opened an offfice in the same German city last week.

Partners Oliver Esch and Karsten Lisch have moved with the OC procurement team and set up the new boutique. Counsel Hanna Bahner also joins the group.

The news comes as OC revealed double-digit growth in global revenues, up 12% from €219.6m to €245.1m, while UK revenue rose 7% from £112.9m to £121m, accounting for 58% of the firm’s total turnover. The rise is lower than last year’s turnover figures. 

Meanwhile, Andersen Tax & Legal has launched in Cologne with a ten-lawyer team from Luther.

Corporate partners Stefan Kraus and Hermann Knott co-lead the team.

Kraus was significantly involved in setting up Andersen Legal, from which Andersen Tax was founded, in Germany and abroad. Knott has previously worked at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

The office is Andersen’s third location in Germany. San Fransisco-based law firm Andersen Global merged with local outfit Alegis in 2015, which will eventually be rebranded Andersen Tax & Legal.

Madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Financials 2016/17: OC posts double-digit growth in global revenue despite Brexit woes

Financials 2016/17: OC posts double-digit growth in global revenue despite Brexit woes

Osborne Clarke (OC) has posted double-digit growth in global revenues, up 12% from €219.6m to €245.1m, while UK revenue rose 7% from £112.9m to £121m, accounting for 58% of the firm’s total turnover.

Although the LB100 firm has seen 12% global revenue growth, this is a drop in percentage terms from last year, when OC posted a 23% increase in global revenues, with a 17% UK revenue gain.

OC’s UK managing partner Ray Berg told Legal Business that the firm was pleased with the results, which he said demonstrated growth despite tough market conditions.

‘As we get bigger it becomes harder to maintain such a high level of growth but actually, looking back at the last twelve months, Brexit and all the uncertainty around that, we are really pleased with the overall performance of the business.’

In addition to UK revenue growth, OC saw net profit increase 5% from £49.8m to £52.5m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) grew from £635,000 to £652,000.

Berg added: ‘The growth in revenue is more to do with a degree of Brexit impact which was felt across the business for sure. It almost felt like you had a ten-and-a-half/eleven month year rather than a full twelve months in the sense that there was that slow down.

‘So that plus the fact that if you look at the firm in its totality some of the newer jurisdictions are well established they are going to have less growth overall.’

‘Last year UK revenue was circa 62-63% of overall revenue. Again what is really pleasing is to see that the international platform is really working for us now. The number of clients we are being instructed by on a multijurisdictional basis is increasing. It is a real flow of work across all the offices,’ Berg added.

During the last financial year, OC UK’s cash resources increased 29% to £33.4m, in contrast to £25.8m in 2015/16, which Berg said resulted from ‘better financial management’.

Deal highlights for the firm included closing two transactions for Grifols, the first a $1.85bn financing for the acquisition of a nucleic acid testing business owned by Hologic, while the second concerned a $6.3bn refinancing – the second-largest financing of a Spanish company.

New UK client wins for the firm last year include Yahoo! and Homebase/Bunnings.

The firm also targeted further growth in Asia, opening an office in Shanghai last month under the name Zhang Yu & Partners, which brought in two partners and six other lawyers.

The opening follows OC’s associations with OC Queen Street in Singapore last August and Hong Kong based Koh Vass & Co in 2015. The firm also has a relationship with BTG Legal, founded by former co-head of Osborne Clarke’s India Group, Prashant Mara.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk