Legal Business

European expansion: Speechlys opens second Swiss base as Pinsents and OC bolster Euro offices through lateral hires

European expansion: Speechlys opens second Swiss base as Pinsents and OC bolster Euro offices through lateral hires

It’s been a year of highs and lows for private client firm Speechly Bircham which, after enduring flat revenues for 2012/13 and unsuccessful merger talks with rival private client firm Withers earlier in the year, has opened an office in Geneva this week. Meanwhile, both Pinsent Masons and Osborne Clarke have made key strategic hires to European offices.

For 221-lawyer Speechlys, Geneva will be the firm’s second office in Switzerland, having opened in Zurich in 2011. According to the firm, the region is home to a third of the world’s privately held wealth and a quarter of the world’s private banking, and subsequently a major hotspot for firms honing in on private client work.

The new office will be headed by private client specialists Michael Wells-Greco and Francis Rojas, and will work alongside head of the firm’s Swiss practice Mark Summers. Ironically, both are former Withers lawyers.

Michael Lingens, senior partner at Speechly said: ‘Growing client demand for joined-up corporate and private wealth expertise made a second presence in Switzerland a logical next move for us.

‘Zurich and Geneva are both important centres for the private banking sector and having an on the ground presence in both cities demonstrates our commitment to the Swiss market.’

Elsewhere, Pinsent Masons’ launch of a French tax practice coincides with the hire of Eugénie Berthet, a partner at Marccus Partners (part of French audit firm Mazars), who specialises in cross-border employee share schemes and international tax planning for individuals. Berthet brings considerable experience to Pinsent Masons, as her industry experience extends to working at Landwell, the legal arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as several years as a tax specialist at French blueblood Bredin Prat and at Slaughter and May.

Berthet rejoins former Marccus Partner colleagues, after Pinsents launched in Paris almost exactly a year ago after hiring a nine-partner team from Marccus, including office head Christoph Maurer, providing corporate, commercial, restructuring, finance, real estate, IT, IP, employment, litigation and arbitration advice.

On the new appointment, Jason Collins, head of tax at the firm said: ‘Eugénie is a standout tax practitioner and her specialisms fit well with a cross-section of our corporate clients as well as our focus on financial services, and the needs of our private wealth clients whose personal and business interests cross many borders. We see significant opportunities around offering cross-border tax advice generally and the growth in share plans specifically.’

Meanwhile, Osborne Clarke has bolstered its Brussels and recently launched Paris offices with the hires of IP specialist Claire Bouchenard, founding partner of Paris boutique B-Cube and corporate and technology lawyer David Haex, who was a managing associate at Linklaters in Brussels. Both will become partners at OC.

The extension of the Paris and Brussels offices come after OC dissolved its European alliance last year, parting ways with Belgium’s De Wolf & Partners, Dutch firm Ploum Lodder Princen and France’s Stehlin & Associés of France, before taking on with Italian and Spanish firms SLA Studio Legale Associato and Osborne Clarke Spain.

Legal Business

European expansion – Osborne Clarke continues international drive with Paris launch

European expansion – Osborne Clarke continues international drive with Paris launch

At the start of 2012 Osborne Clarke (OC) had little in the way of a direct international presence but the top 40 UK firm has continued its assault on Europe with a Paris launch, marking its fourth office opening in just over a year.

The office, which opened last Monday (15 July), is headed by Legal 500 recommended IT lawyer Béatrice Delmas-Linel, who joins the firm after four years as a partner at De Gaulle Flaurence, prior to which she was associate general counsel at Microsoft and before that managing partner at top-tier employment firm August & Debouzy.

Delmas-Linel will be joined in a week’s time by an as yet unnamed junior IT lawyer, with other partners joining the office from September onwards on a month-by-month basis, with the full team in situ by the end of the autumn.

OC managing partner Simon Beswick (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘In both Brussels and Paris we’re looking to have a core team of people who can initially service the needs of our digital business clients so we’ve been looking for a team of IT, IP, employment, commercial and M&A lawyers and also within that group of people for someone to be able to lead the office. What’s really pleasing is that we found Beatrice who’s both an IT lawyer but also a very natural leader.’

OC has been looking to open in Paris for the last 12 months and Beswick told Legal Business that having focussed on digital business clients such as Amazon and Google, the office will expand further to service clients in other sectors.

Delmas-Linel added: ‘Two main elements attracted me to Osborne Clarke France. First the clarity of the vision that they have – they are unashamedly sector focused and that works well for my digital business client base. Second, there is an energy, a sense of ambition and palpable momentum at Osborne Clarke right now that is unmatched at most other firms.’

Last year OC gave its European best friends the option to merge, which was taken up in Spain and Italy. As the firm set its sights on establishing a pan-European business it loosened its other European alliances and in June this year launched in Belgium with a two-partner team from former ally De Wolf & Partners.

Beswick said: ‘Just over one year ago we had around 450 lawyers in six offices. Collectively we now have over 600 lawyers in 15 offices across seven jurisdictions, and have double digit revenue growth, which is good progress by any account.’

Legal Business

Osborne Clarke reaps benefit of year of European expansion with revenue increase of 14%

Osborne Clarke has ended a year of international expansion with 2012-13 revenues up by 14% to £112m as it beds down new offices in Italy and Spain.

The revenue growth masks a couple of slow periods for the firm’s transactional business in what managing partner Simon Beswick described as a ‘lumpy market’. Discounting revenues from the top 40 UK firm’s new offices, its year-on-year turnover figure fell by 1% from £98m in 2011-12 to £97m in 2012-13.

The 410-lawyer firm posted a dip in net profits during the same financial period, down 5% from £37m to £35m.

It has been an expansive year for the Bristol-based firm both in terms of new offices and lateral hires, having recruited 20 lawyers at partner level and merged with its Spanish and Italian alliance partners Osborne Clarke Spain and SLA Studio Legale Associato in July last year.

Of the 20 partner hires, 13 of these were appointed in the UK offices, with eleven brought in to expand the London office and two in Bristol.

Beswick said: ‘It was a year where we set out to do two things, one was to grow the business internationally, and two was to add scale to our business in London and we achieved both those things.

‘Our profit performance reflects the investments we have made internationally and to grow scale in London, as well as the slow transactional periods. All of our investments have been made without recourse to either borrowing or partners being asked for cash calls.’

More recently the firm launched in Hamburg in October 2012 and in Brussels earlier this month with the hire of a ten-strong team from former local ally De Wolf & Partners led by employment partner Thierry Vierin and commercial partner Stefan Deswert, although these moves are not yet reflected in the financial results.

The firm is finalising plans to move into Paris later this year, with an office opening earmarked for the autumn. ‘We’re very nearly there with the Paris opening. We’ve been actively recruiting for the last six months and trying to pull together a core team of partners. We feel we’ve got very close to knowing who that core team is,’ said Beswick.

In terms of practice areas, Beswick singled out banking and real estate as having had a particularly good year. ‘We had a reasonably steady period across the piste but the one area where we had more volume come through in the last year, and it’s probably not surprising because it’s where we made quite a few of our investments, is in banking and real estate. Those are the areas that really stand out,’ said Beswick.

Earlier today Pinsent Masons announced an increase in turnover of 40% to £309m thanks to its merger with McGrigors last June.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Osborne Clarke, Eversheds and Bryan Cave among firms to make key strategic hires

Revolving Doors: Osborne Clarke, Eversheds and Bryan Cave among firms to make key strategic hires

Europe has been the focus of much lateral partner activity over the past week, as firms including Eversheds and Osborne Clarke make senior hires across the continent.

On 3 June, Osborne Clarke announced it is to open in Brussels with a two-partner, five-lawyer team from former Belgian ally De Wolf & Partners, led by De Wolf’s head of employment Thierry Viérin and commercial partner Stefan Deswert.

Joining them at what will be the firm’s 14th office in six countries following its expansion into Italy and Spain last year, are five associates covering corporate, commercial, competition and employment law. The team will be joined by members of the firm’s EU regulatory team and further senior appointments are in the pipeline.

Viérin said: ‘We are very excited to be joining the OC family. Our Brussels team has extensive experience of both inbound international work and domestic work, with a particular focus on northern European cross-border matters.

Elsewhere, 884-lawyer US firm Bryan Cave also on 3 May announced three partner hires across its London and Paris offices. In London, the top 60 Legal Business Global 100 firm appointed Pinsents Masons rated employment partner and chair of the employment committee of the City of London Law Society, Gary Freer, as head of its UK labour and employment client services group.

Freer, who was head of employment in McGrigors London office prior to its merger with Pinsent Masons last year, advises on all employment law including executive severance, team moves, unfair and wrong dismissal, discrimination and tribunal claims as well as transfer of undertakings (TUPE) and global mobility issues.

Across the channel, meanwhile, the firm’s Paris office has poached Dentons regional head of litigation and dispute resolution Constantin Achillas and domestic and cross-border banking partner Jean-Norbert Pontier to join its commercial litigation client group and financial services client group respectively.

Achillas’ has acted for 20 years before the French courts in complex civil and commercial cases for clients including Arch Chemicals, Bank of Scotland, Bausch & Lomb, BDO, Chartis, EADS, HDI-Gerling and Veolia.

‘Constantin and Jean-Norbert will add tremendous depth and experience to our firm both in France and the EU, as well as across other international borders,’ said Joseph Smallhoover, Paris office managing partner. ‘They will play a key role in our ongoing efforts to further enhance and expand Bryan Cave’s global reach in key practice areas.’

Also in Paris, Eversheds has appointed Hascoet & Associés insurance law expert Frédérique de la Chapelle as a partner and head of insurance in its international financial services disputes resolution team (FSDR).

De la Chapelle has an established insurance and reinsurance practice and her clients include both French and overseas insurance companies and multinational corporations.

Paris FSDR partner Rémi Kleiman said: ‘We have looked at developing the insurance practice in France further and with Frédérique, a practitioner renowned for her expertise in this area on the French market, I have no doubt that we will be able to offer clients an excellent insurance litigation service from our office in Paris.’

In neighbouring Spain, DAC Beachcroft on 31 May appointed Ruth Duque as a partner in its Madrid insurance regulatory practice, joining from the Spanish Regulatory Authority, Dirección General de Seguros y Fondos de Pensiones, where she worked for ten years overseeing legislation policy.

Duque was instrumental in the drafting of the Bill on Supervision of Insurance which, when enacted, will implement Solvency II. Enrique Gich, DAC Beachcroft Madrid senior partner, said: ‘This appointment is another step in our strategy to offer clients in the international insurance market high-quality advice in dealing with regulatory issues in Solvency II.’

In the UK, meanwhile, 350-lawyer Scottish headquartered Shepherd and Wedderburn has bolstered its City real estate capability with the hire of partners Jonathan Rickard from Addleshaw Goddard and Sally Morris-Smith from Kennedys. Morris-Smith focuses on portfolio acquisitions, financing and complex development projects, having trained at Linklaters and worked at Olswang before joining Kennedys in 2009. Rickard became a partner at Addleshaw Goddard in 2002 and his clients include Hammerson, Bayerische Landesbank and IBRC.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s chief executive Stephen Gibb said: ‘Our real estate business has seen sustainable growth over a number of years now, and the addition of Sally and Jonathan is a clear indication of the investment we’re making in the future growth and success of both the real estate team and the London office.’

Elsewhere, specialist litigation firm Stewarts Law has appointed a new head of commercial litigation in Leeds, with the hire of former Pinsent Masons partner Mohan Bhaskaran.

Bhaskaran has focused on commercial disputes for over 14 years and has particular experience handling fraud and corruption investigations as well as complex commercial disputes involving major IT implementation projects, PFI disputes and product recall matters.

Firm-wide head of commercial litigation Clive Zietman said: ‘Mo’s appointment strengthens our current position as one of the leading commercial litigation departments. Our strategy continues to create a team comprising the very best lawyers to meet the complex needs of our clients and Mo will be a great asset heading the team in Leeds.’


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Legal Business

A gloomy week for legal job prospects as OC follows BLP to announce likely job cuts

Osborne Clarke (OC) is to make up to 13 fee-earners redundant as it begins a two-week consultation, the top 50 UK law firm announced today (15 May).

Managing partner Simon Beswick said that the 400-lawyer firm would be informing associates affected by the consultation today in response to what he said was ‘over-capacity’ in the business.

Beswick also said that ‘steps had already been taken’ to deal with over-manning in its partnership ranks, citing pressure from clients for advisers to more efficiency handle their work.

‘In better economic times you wouldn’t have to do anything because of the natural attrition of lawyers, but at the moment nobody is leaving,’ he told Legal Business.

‘We have had a structural over-capacity in the business at associate and senior solicitor levels for a while now. We had hoped that this issue would naturally unwind but over the past few months it became clear that this would not be the case. Looking forward, we can’t see that position changing, so we have had to address this issue to maintain the strength of our business.’

The move comes despite the Bristol-based firm being active in the partner recruitment market in recent months, with OC in 2013 hiring eight partners in its London arm. Berwin Leighton Paisner also this week announced that it was set to make substantial job cuts after putting more than 100 staff at risk of redundancy.

Other major law firms to this year announce job cuts include Eversheds, Pinsent Masons and CMS Cameron McKenna.

Legal Business

CMS and Osborne Clarke scale back Integreon deals

CMS Cameron McKenna (CMS) and Osborne Clarke (OC) have scaled back their legal process outsourcing (LPO) agreements with Integreon within days of each other. CMS is seeking an alternative provider while OC is looking to bring resources back in house.

The ten-year deal between CMS and Integreon, struck in May 2010, was the largest of its kind, worth £600m. CMS had hoped it would establish a revolutionary alternative model for legal support services by outsourcing its entire support staff function in areas including finance, human resources, and IT. The deal resulted in an estimated 9% of its support staff being made redundant, while a further 21% were relocated to either Bristol or India.

Legal Business

Integreon loses business development chief to Elevate

Integreon loses business development chief to Elevate

LPO provider Integreon has lost its business development chief John Croft to legal services provider Elevate, just weeks after CMS Cameron McKenna and Osborne Clarke scaled back their agreements with the outsourcing giant.

Elevate, whose founder is former Integreon CEO Liam Brown, announced Croft’s London-based appointment on 19 April, as the company seeks to launch a ‘new alternative legal services provider’ in the UK. Croft will establish Elevate’s technology and services in the UK and European markets.

Elevate, which currently operates a 100-strong team out of the US and India, also announced the arrival of Integreon’s COO and head of corporate strategy Lokendra Tomar to its ranks in India yesterday, where he has been appointed CEO.

Croft has over 25 years experience working with law firms and corporates. He pioneered high-profile deals for Integreon, including with Osborne Clarke, CMS Cameron McKenna, Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Linklaters, and Simmons & Simmons.

Integreon confirmed the departure of Croft, noting that it would be making additional hires within its global 30-strong sales team in 2013 ‘to continue [its] strong focus on growth.’

On his arrival at Elevate, Croft said: ‘Elevate brings legal efficiency to corporate legal departments and law firms, helping them do more for less by offering high quality alternative legal services, plus proprietary legal project management cloud technology, with legal operations and legal spend analytics consulting.’

Osborne Clarke and CMS Cameron McKenna both reduced the scale of their outsourcing agreements with Integreon in late March.

CMS Cameron McKenna is currently engaging in ongoing consultations over its 10-year £600m contract with Integreon, while Osborne Clarke’s spokesperson confirmed it has moved some services back in-house while its hospitality and reception staff were directed to outsource provider MITIE. OC’s consultation with Integreon ends on 1 May.

However, Croft feels that there is still plenty of life in the LPO market. He said: ‘If you look at law firms and speak to managing partners, they are still under pressure to manage their businesses more efficiently. If you speak to general counsel they will tell you that the pressure to spend less, or to buy more for less, isn’t going to go away either. But with LPO, as in any market place, there are examples of things that have been done well and things that have been done not so well. If the question is whether outsourcing has had its day in the legal sector, I would say no.’

Legal Business

Osborne Clarke retracts bulk of outsourced staff four years after deal

Osborne Clarke retracts bulk of outsourced staff four years after deal

Osborne Clarke (OC) is set to withdraw the majority of its outsourced staff from provider Integreon and bring them back in-house four years after initially striking the deal.

The firm will transfer roughly 65 of the 75 support staff, who were first assigned to Integreon in 2009, back to its offices, with two jobs thought to be at risk. The original deal was intended to last for seven years.

Staff covered areas including IT, office services, learning and development, events, document services and client relationship management.

Under the new terms, OC and Integreon will continue to work together on back office functions, including business intelligence, information services and 24-hour helpline, but OC’s Bristol and Reading receptionists will move to rival outsourcer Mitie, which is already the provider for OC’s London hospitality services.

OC first started its consultation with affected staff last Friday, 22 March, which will determine the precise numbers to be transferred and is expected to last a month. Any changes are likely to come into effect on 1 May.

CEO and managing partner, Simon Beswick, said: ‘We remain firm believers in the shared services model and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Integreon. After four years of working closely together, it was the right time to review our needs, which have changed so much since 2009.’

Bob Gogel, CEO of Integreon said: ‘Integreon continues to develop the shared services model and interest has increased, along with support for, the dedicated service model. Our onshore, near-shore and offshore strategy continues to fit with the model for legal services support outsourcing.’

Integreon has also struck contracts with CMS and Simmons & Simmons in the past.

Legal Business

LB100 Osborne Clarke: From South West to West Coast

LB100 Osborne Clarke: From South West to West Coast

Twenty years ago, Osborne Clarke (OC) had revenues of £11.4m and an average PEP of £97,000. It was a Bristol firm with a very small London office and the origins of an international alliance.

‘Lots of firms have overtaken us,’ says the current managing partner Simon Beswick, ‘but really OC was the first regional firm to come into London and the first regional firm to go into Europe, doing both of those in 1987.’