Legal Business

Financials 2020/21: Osborne Clarke shows spirit with 7% revenue growth and double-digit profit surge

Financials 2020/21: Osborne Clarke shows spirit with 7% revenue growth and double-digit profit surge

Osborne Clarke has rallied in the face of last year’s Covid-hindered financials to record a 7% international revenue increase to €341m as UK profit and profit per equity partner (PEP) saw double-digit elevations for 2020/21.

The global revenue increase from last year’s €318m means turnover has grown a respectable 55% over five years. OC’s UK showing has also received a shot in the arm from last year when the firm posted a subdued 3% revenue increase to £155m from £150m, while UK net profit diminished by 5% to £59.8m from £63m.

In 2020/21, UK revenue increased by 8% to £166.4m, outstripping global performance, while UK net profit saw a pacey 14% hike from £59.8m in 2019/20 to £67.9m.

A 16% surge in PEP to £714,000 more than reversed last year’s 12% drop to £614,000, when significant investments in both its people and infrastructure and partner investments were cited as the reasons for the drop. OC said it continued to strengthen its financial stability with increasing cash resources to £41.1m, up 14% on 2019/20.

Ray Berg, UK managing partner (pictured), paid tribute to the firm’s people, supporting clients, colleagues and the business through one of the most volatile periods it had ever experienced and a year that has been ‘mentally taxing’.

Speaking to Legal Business, Berg was cautiously sanguine: ‘Everyone in the business has worked flat out and there’s a huge sense of fatigue, but to see the way people have responded in a true OC manner, bringing out the best in our values, has just been fantastic. I’m not going to deny, this is a great set of numbers, but they’re almost secondary when you consider where we were a year ago and the huge uncertainty facing the business and our people.’

Omar Al-Nuaimi, OC’s International CEO, pointed to a number of highlights since the introduction of OC’s 2020 strategy, including 9% year-on-year growth in the international business since 2015/16 and increasing multijurisdictional clients – those served in five or more jurisdictions – by 83%. OC has also now passed 2,000 people internationally. ‘We’re proud of our innovative reputation and we plan to keep that spirit alive with a shared vision going forward,’ he said.

At the start of the year, Osborne Clarke launched a new future-focused three dimensional client plan that combines legal expertise, sector understanding and transformational insight across three international drivers of change: decarbonisation, digitalisation and urban dynamics. Berg pointed to the hire of the firm’s first head of inclusion and corporate responsibility, Bola Gibson, as a key development, along with the pandemic’s role in crystallising the importance of such issues. ‘I’ve always said that diversity and inclusion, including wellbeing, would be one of the things our clients and our people measured us on. If ever anyone needed convincing of the business imperative of that, the last 12 months have proved it. Equally, decarbonisation and showing you’re a sustainable business. You’ve got to have an answer that goes beyond the tick box response and it’s genuinely embedded to what you do as a firm.’

The firm’s largest sector, technology, media and communications grew 21%, followed by retail and consumer increasing by 16%, energy and utilities up 8%, financial services up 7%, while other sectors were broadly flat but against strong performances in 2019/20.

In the UK, disputes and risk saw 14% growth, business transactions increased by 9%, projects, real estate and finance grew 3% and advisory by 2%.

Notable UK laterals for the year include that of London real estate partner Richard Wilkinson from DLA Piper; Michelmores London restructuring and insolvency partner Douglas Hawthorn; Tim Harris, patent litigation partner from Bird & Bird, and technology and life sciences-focused venture capital partners – Rob Hayes and Justin Starling – who joined in Reading along with their team from Penningtons Manches Cooper. The firm also promoted 12 international partners in the last year.

Berg noted that, while the economic indicators for the firm and its clients appear positive, other significant challenges could potentially cloud the horizon.

‘If I’ve got one concern it’s the personal impact this has had on everyone. We won’t really know the extent of that for a few months to come. On one level, remote working has been great because we’ve seen a backdrop to every individual’s personal life we would never have seen before, but equally you get a certain picture with a virtual veneer, which makes it harder to really understand what people are dealing with.

‘Layer onto that the war for talent, which is really going to have to make law firms be very clear on what they are about. If people are stuck at home who joined OC because of its wonderful culture that they’re not physically experiencing, the lure of a huge US salary becomes a very attractive proposition. That goes back to making people want to come into the office.’

Legal Business

Life During Law: Simon Beswick

Life During Law: Simon Beswick

I’m one of three brothers. My middle brother David has just retired as partner of Eversheds. Ever since we were young lads he wanted to be a lawyer, so I had that echo going on.

I chose economics, accountancy, politics and law at A-Level. I really enjoyed the politics but also found the law a lot more interesting than the accountancy. I decided off the back of that to do law at uni and that carried on into a career. I believed I’d be a lawyer for no more than two or three years, and use it as a stepping stone to go into business.

Legal Business

‘Absolutely the right person’: OC names infra finance head Al-Nuaimi as CEO successor to Beswick

‘Absolutely the right person’: OC names infra finance head Al-Nuaimi as CEO successor to Beswick

Osborne Clarke has named its successor to Simon Beswick as CEO, with infrastructure finance head and OC veteran Omar Al-Nuaimi (pictured) taking over in July 2021.

The move will see Al-Nuaimi succeed Beswick, OC’s inaugural CEO, at the end of his term after eight years in the role. The appointment was announced to partners on Thursday (8 October) by Núria Martín, chair of the international council and managing partner of Osborne Clarke’s Spanish offices. 

Al-Nuaimi has been with Osborne Clarke for 25 years having qualified in 1997 and trained there. He has been active in the UK renewable energy scene since its inception and previously led Osborne Clarke’s UK projects, real estate and finance practice for eight years. He has been a member of the UK executive board and also served on the UK’s Partnership Council and the International Council.

Beswick’s international role at OC started in 2000 when he took over the leadership of the firm’s Silicon Valley office shortly after its creation.  He was UK managing partner between 2003 and 2014 and became the firm’s first international CEO in 2012.

The firm then had offices in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain and, under Beswick’s stewardship, went big on international expansion, opening offices in Belgium, China, France, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden.  It also opened new US offices in San Francisco and New York and formed a relationship with BTG Legal in India.

Beswick said: ‘I have been fortunate to lead a great business for many years and to help OC establish its modern, future-focused presence in a number of international markets, servicing sector clients across a range of advisory, litigation and transactional matters.

‘Over the next months I will be helping to embed our client strategy around the key transformation themes of decarbonisation, digitalisation and urban dynamics.  These are global issues and opportunities which clients are looking for guidance on.  Covid-19 has thrown into relief how globally interconnected we all are and how vitally important, for example, digitalisation is if organisations are to maximise efficiency and resilience.’

Al-Nuaimi said: ‘Every market is different and each office is at a different stage of maturity, but we bring a unique and consistent culture to our clients and our people. We have some truly exciting plans for our next phase, focused on universal themes that our clients enjoy discussing with us, and I am determined to build on everything that Simon has achieved for us and our clients.’

Martín concluded: ‘Congratulations to Omar.  We believe he is absolutely the right person to build on Simon’s legacy and take our business to even greater heights.’

OC’s financial results came out in August and proved to be a mixed bag as it recorded a 5% uptick in international revenue to €318m as profit fell amid a year of investment. Nevertheless, the revenue uplift from last year’s €304m was a positive showing and stood out as a 63% increase over five years.

Legal Business

‘Crazy and hopeless’: Osborne Clarke and EIP dial in landmark patent victory against Chinese giants

‘Crazy and hopeless’: Osborne Clarke and EIP dial in landmark patent victory against Chinese giants

The Supreme Court has ruled against Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE today (26 August) in a landmark IP dispute, with Osborne Clarke and EIP Legal securing victory for clients Unwired Planet and Conversant.

The case concerns patent infringement and the manner in which corporates enter global licensing arrangements. Huawei had been appealing against previous decisions in favour of Conversant, with the companies battling on jurisdictional grounds over whether particular patents were essential to the implementation of international standards for mobile telephony.

The case rested upon whether an English court has power or jurisdiction to enforce fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms by reference to a global portfolio of standard essential patents, with the unanimous decision today confirming they do. In November 2019, a technical trial in the High Court ruled in favour of Conversant that two patents were essential and infringed.

The judgment today in favour of Unwired and Conversant means companies like Huawei will have to acquire global licences for particular patents, with a failure to do so resulting in limited access to the UK telecoms market.

Leading the successful defence against the claim for Unwired and Conversant was Osborne Clarke’s head of IP disputes Arty Rajendra and EIP Legal partner (and former London managing partner of Taylor Wessing) Gary Moss. The appeal from Huawei and ZTE, meanwhile, was led by Allen & Overy’s (A&O’s) Neville Cordell, Mark Heaney and Mark Ridgway in addition to Powell Gilbert partners Simon Ayrton, Peter Damerell, and Zoë Butler.

‘It is a niche area of law, even within IP law, but it is hugely important to those operating in the mobile phone market,’ Rajendra told Legal Business. ‘It will become even more important as even more and different types of businesses look to access the 5G standard. A wider variety of technology businesses will want access to that standard, and it will be protected by tens of thousands of essential patents, so you will get more cases around these standards in the future. The English courts are perfectly positioned to hear those cases given this judgment.’

Moss commented: ‘Many in the industry thought that what we were attempting was crazy and hopeless. But we and our clients have held firm; along the way we have gone through 12 major trials and appeals and innumerable interim court hearings. We always believed in our clients’ case and seven years later we are delighted to have our belief endorsed by the Supreme Court.’

For the appellants, A&O and Powell Gilbert instructed 8 New Square’s Daniel Alexander QC and Andrew Lykiardopoulos QC; One Essex Court’s Henry Forbes Smith; Brick Court’s Mark Howard QC; and Blackstone Chambers’ James Segan.

For the respondents, Osborne Clarke and EIP Legal instructed 8 New Square’s Adrian Speck QC, Isabel Jamal and Thomas Jones as well as Brick Court’s Sarah Ford QC and Colin West.

For more background on the case, read ‘Perfect Storms – cases of the year’ in our annual Disputes Yearbook


Legal Business

‘Year of two halves’: Coronavirus takes gloss off financials for OC as revenue lifts 5% and profit drops

‘Year of two halves’: Coronavirus takes gloss off financials for OC as revenue lifts 5% and profit drops

Osborne Clarke’s latest financial results have proven to be a mixed bag as it recorded a 5% uptick in international revenue to €318m even as profit fell amid a year of investment.

Nevertheless, the revenue uplift from last year’s €304m is a positive showing and stands out as a 63% increase over five years. 

OC’s performance in the UK was more subdued, with revenue rising 3% to £155m from £150m in 2018/19 and UK net profit diminished by 5% to £59.8m from £63m last year. UK profit per equity partner (PEP) also took a hit, down 12% to £614,000 from £703,000, with ‘significant investments in both its people and infrastructure’ and ‘partner investments’, cited as the reasons for these respective reductions.

International CEO Simon Beswick told Legal Business that he was pleased with the results from an global perspective. ‘We traded really well until lockdown kicked in, with the Asia business trading well until the end of 2019. After that, it pretty immediately felt the impact. Europe traded well until mid-March and, from the end of May, things started to pick up again.

‘The US offices have been trying to originate US clients for work in Europe and Asia and since they are largely tech-related clients, things have continued to flow pretty well. If we’d stopped the clock at the end of February, many of the offices would have had double-digit growth, but March took the gloss off it.’

Managing partner, Ray Berg (pictured), said it was a similar picture for the UK business. ‘We had been going great guns, but it’s been a year of two halves, where the second half lasted two months but felt like two years!’

Berg noted that the firm continued to attract new mandates and clients, adding that he was particularly pleased with how people have pulled together in what he described as ’first and foremost a health crisis’.

He pointed to investment over the last few years in ‘connected working’, which has enabled people to work from home on a mandatory basis as well as a voluntary one. ‘Our clients have commented on the quality of the services we’ve delivered in lockdown, which has proved that it was an investment worth making.’

In the UK, the firm’s disputes and risk business saw 15% growth while projects, real estate and finance grew 2%.  Growth in advisory and business transactions remained flat while financial services grew 10% and OC’s largest sector group – tech, media & comms – saw a 6% uplift.

Client demand was generally strong pre-lockdown and that since, the Asia offices have been hit hardest, with continental European offices faring better, with some enjoying strong double-digit growth.

OC made 11 senior promotions during the year in Germany, Italy and the UK, with Singapore recently benefiting from two new counsel: litigator Yvette Anthony and corporate specialist Simon Huang.

The firm has not reduced its UK trainee intake for September and has kept its summer vacation scheme in place. It also flagged the addition of Bola Gibson, its new head of inclusion and corporate responsibility in the UK, as well as its sponsorship of the European Network for Women in Leadership. Twenty female partners from across its UK and EU offices are participating in the programme.

Beswick and Berg remain sanguine about the months ahead, noting that clients have moved from the coronavirus crisis management phase to thinking about longer-term projects, and identifying opportunities in accelerating digitalisation, as well as advising clients on reaching decarbonisation targets.

Concluded Beswick: ‘There are opportunities for us there, with the caveat of whether we have a second wave [of the pandemic]. At some point soon, we’ll all be returning to talking about Brexit!’

Legal Business

Not about PEP: OC looks long-term after surpassing €300m with 11% revenue growth

Not about PEP: OC looks long-term after surpassing €300m with 11% revenue growth

The leadership at Osborne Clarke (OC) is conscious of any complacency creeping in after more than doubling in size in the last five years.

The firm recorded another year of double-digit growth internationally in 2018/19, up 11% to €304 last year and with non-UK revenue growing slightly to account for 44% of turnover. Growth was a little slower in the UK, up 8% to £150m as net profit rose 3% to £63m.

Profit per equity partner (PEP), however, fell slightly to £703,000 from £711,000.

‘We feel that we’ve found a method of working which seems to work for Osborne Clarke, our clients and our people, and therefore each year is just about the next iteration of what we’ve been doing,’ international chief executive Simon Beswick (pictured) told Legal Business.

UK managing partner Ray Berg added: ‘We’re thinking in a much more long-term way, rather than just, “What’s the PEP number going to be at the end of the year?” It’s about not allowing any complacency to creep in: it worked this year, so how can we do it better?’

Beswick said the firm had been surprised at how resilient the business had been this year, given the political and economic certainty. The firm has been adding global offices over the last five years, more recently in Sweden and Shanghai as well as its Hong Kong outpost officially becoming known as Osborne Clarke following a regulatory period of association.

He said that building out that international network had added resilience to the firm, with the continental European business – where the firm made key lateral hires in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy – having a particularly strong year. Beswick said there was opportunity for greater growth in Asia, but finding the right talent in that jurisdiction was proving more challenging.

The slower UK growth reflected both the overall market and relative size of the firm now, said Berg – who in October last year was re-elected managing partner until 2023 – with the performance broadly in line with what it had budgeted.

‘It was an odd year that started slowly, built up a head of steam, slowed down against post-Christmas with Brexit shenanigans, then picked up a head of steam again, which might just be another spike before a slowdown again,’ he told Legal Business. ‘I’m going to be referencing Brexit and uncertainty for the rest of my days as managing partner. The real challenge for all firms and businesses is being able to discern any trends, it jumps around.’

OC has been gradually building up its OC Solutions team over the last five years, too, adding a German team of six people about 18 months ago to bring the overall number to 14. That team is charged with finding bespoke solutions to client needs – it developed a cloud-based platform for Vodafone’s legal property work – rather than simply selling technology or different ways of working to clients.

Beswick said the firm was looking ahead to understand what the future market conditions would look like but was confident OC had found the strategy it would stick to, having overseen dramatic growth over the last five or so years.

‘Each year we’re effectively trying to do the same thing while upping the bar a bit as each year goes by. We’ve enjoyed success now for a number of years, success drives success and gives your people a bit more confidence.’

Legal Business

Maternity leave and part-time lawyers promoted in eight-strong Osborne Clarke partnership round

Maternity leave and part-time lawyers promoted in eight-strong Osborne Clarke partnership round

Osborne Clarke has made up eight partners in an improved promotion round which includes one lawyer on maternity leave and two who are working part-time.

The eight promotions are up three on last year, and include five female promotions. The partners are across the energy and utilities, financial services, real estate and infrastructure and digital business sectors.

Osborne Clarke now has more than 260 partners internationally. Five partners were made up in London in 2019, including Alison Riddle in financial services, Anastasia Gorokhova and Dave Kerr in real estate and Tom Try in digital business.

The firm’s other appointments came in Reading – digital business lawyer Anna Williams – and in Bristol – Charles Crowne in digital business and Sarah Knight in real estate.

The UK promotions follow ten international promotions in Europe and Asia at the start of the year, most predominantly in Germany with five promotions. Other areas included one in each of Italy, Hong Kong, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

Osborne Clarke UK managing partner Ray Berg commented: ‘Diversity is an important part of our 2020 vision and will continue to be key to our strategy going forward. It’s very important to our senior leadership team that people from all kinds of backgrounds, have the freedom to progress and equal opportunity to use their talents to the full at Osborne Clarke and for the benefit of our clients.’

Earlier this week, Travers Smith on Tuesday (14 May) announced it had promoted four partners, half the number it made up in 2018.

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.’

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.’

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.’

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’