Legal Business

Revolving doors: Cooley, Pannone, DWF and K&L Gates all bolster UK numbers


Last week saw a quartet of US and UK firms, namely Cooley, Pannone Corporate, DWF and K&L Gates, all make lateral hires in the areas of tax, regulatory, real estate, and finance.

Continuing on its upward trajectory since its January launch in the City was Cooley which, on Friday (15 May), announced it will enhance its London business and finance practice with the hire of London-based tax partner Natasha Kaye from Olswang.

Kaye advises on both domestic and international tax issues for corporate, real estate, outsourcing and IP transactions and planning. She has a particular focus on private equity deals advising both institutions and management teams, as well as advising more generally on M&A, reorganizations, joint ventures and corporate restructurings.

Cooley’s London managing partner Justin Stock said: ‘Natasha is a highly-respected tax lawyer with a broad skillset across all areas of complex corporate tax work who will prove incredibly valuable to our corporate client base active in the UK.’

It follows a flurry of partner hires by the US firm which recently recruited Olswang’s longstanding corporate partner Stephen Rosen, as well as Reed Smith life sciences partner duo John Wilkinson and Nicola Maguire in March.

Just over a year after deciding against joining Slater & Gordon following its acquisition of Pannone’s consumer law business, Manchester-based Pannone Corporate is in expansion mode and has appointed two partners, Tristan Meears-White and Dermot Preston, from DWF and Gateley respectively.

Meears-White has joined as head of regulatory compliance. He advises on regulatory and compliance issues including anti-trust, competition, bribery and corruption, and health and safety law. Preston has joined the insolvency and corporate recovery team and advises on non-contentious insolvency issues including advising banks, asset based lenders, companies and directors.

Commenting on the partner hires, Pannone Corporate managing partner Paul Jonson said: ‘This investment in our regulatory and compliance, and insolvency and corporate restructuring practices further enhances our offering to the firm’s growing client base of corporate and commercial clients who want a quality service delivered in a clear, unstuffy way at sensible rates.’

Meanwhile, DWF invested in its Scottish team with the appointment of real estate partner Moray Thomson in Glasgow. Joining from MacRoberts, where he served as head of planning, Thomson is tasked with increasing the ‘scale and visibility of DWF’s planning capability in Scotland and nationally’. Thomson is specialised in onshore wind and grid connections and reinforcements, which DWF hopes will increase its contentious planning and consenting capability. His recent work in this area includes the consent for the various parts of the South West Scotland Renewables Connection project and the re-powering of the Cockenzie Power Station.

Lastly, K&L Gates enhanced its City investment management practice with the recruit of Berwin Leighton Paisner partner Jacob Ghanty. Ghanty advises asset managers, insurers, banks, payment institutions, and intermediaries about financial regulation, investment funds, insurance/reinsurance, and structured debt and capital markets.

Tony Griffiths, administrative partner of K&L Gates’ London office said: ‘Jacob joins a growing UK investment management team. His arrival further strengthens the advisory side of our practice, where we have seen significant client demand from alternative capital providers for guidance on the myriad of existing and new financial services regulations.’

Ghanty constitutes the second new partner addition to K&L Gates in London this year, following the March arrival of intellectual property partner Arthur Artinian from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Legal Business

Redundancy watch: Pannone to make job cuts following Slater & Gordon takeover


Manchester’s Pannone is offering voluntary redundancies to around 100 staff as a result of its recently announced takeover by Slater & Gordon (S&G).

As reported by RollOnFriday today (9 December), there will be no compulsory redundancies but Pannone has informed around 100 individuals that it is unlikely that there will be positions waiting for them at S&G. Neither Pannone nor S&G would comment when contacted by Legal Business.

After months of wrangling over which parts of Pannone would move over to Slater & Gordon, the firms finally announced that Australian-listed S&G would acquire the consumer personal injury (PI) business of Pannone in late November in a deal worth £33m.

The ASX-listed firm acquired the majority share of Pannone, including personal injury and serious injury, clinical negligence, court of protection, family, wills, trusts and probate, property, as well as some elements of the employment and dispute resolution practice areas, with the aim of increasing S&G’s operations in the UK by around 50% and grow headcount to over 1200.

For Pannone, the deal brings to an end a tough few years for the firm financially with revenues suffering as its key insurance business has been increasingly squeezed. It wasn’t the worst performing firm of the Legal Business 100 this year, but nonetheless has seen revenues fall 10% in the last five years from £50.8m to £45.6m.

Pannone Corporate LLP will now spin-off on its own, led by head of dispute resolution and regulatory Paul Jonson and senior partner Steven Grant. During the final stages of negotiations it emerged that executive board member David Jabbari, who joined Pannone a year ago from his role as COO at Clyde & Co, had resigned.

Other regional personal injury (PI) players to announce redundancies recently include Lyons Davidson, which having made two successive major joint ventures with Admiral and AA, made around 50 redundancies in mid-November. Leeds-based Walker Morris also recently confirmed that it is to close its PI business, making around 48 staff at risk of redundancy as a result of the closure, while Co-operative Legal Services also confirmed in late November that its personal insurance division was undergoing a restructuring that was likely to result in 60 job cuts.

Legal Business

Consolidation continues as Manchester institution Pannone succumbs to Slater and Gordon’s advances


After months of speculation, Slater and Gordon has finally announced the acquisition of the consumer services and personal injury (PI) business of Manchester’s Pannone today (28 November) in a deal worth £33m.

Slater and Gordon will acquire the majority share of Pannone, including personal injury and serious injury, clinical negligence, court of protection, family, wills, trusts and probate, property, as well as some elements of the employment and dispute resolution practice areas.

According to a statement by Pannone: ‘A new and independent business called Pannone Corporate LLP will be formed at the same time which will focus on commercial and corporate work for business clients.’

The acquisition aims to increase Slater and Gordon’s operations in the UK by around 50% and grow headcount to over 1200.

Due diligence has been substantially completed and the transaction approved by the Slater and Gordon board and the Pannone partnership. The transaction is expected to complete in February next year.

Slater and Gordon head of UK Neil Kinsella (pictured) said: ‘This acquisition will transform us into a significantly larger firm offering a broader range of legal services and allowing us to help more clients in their fight for justice. The planned acquisition of Pannone Solicitors is a vital step in our strategy for growth, bringing us closer to our aim of becoming the UK’s leading law practice for everyday people.

‘We believe Pannone is an ideal partner for Slater and Gordon. I am particularly pleased that this transaction significantly increases our personal injury practice area, while also reinforcing our commitment across a broad range of personal legal services. Bringing together our teams will give us leading positions in many fields, including family law in Manchester, and strengthen our ability to help ordinary people across a broad range of legal areas.’

For Pannone, this takeover of the lion’s share of its business brings to an end a tough few years for the firm financially with revenues suffering as its key insurance business has been increasingly squeezed. By no means the worst performer in the Legal Business 100, the firm has nonetheless seen revenues fall 10% in the last five years from £50.8m to £45.6m.

Pannone Corporate LLP will be led by partners Paul Jonson and Steven Grant. Jonson is the head of dispute resolution and regulatory at Pannone, while Grant is currently the senior partner, former managing partner and head of corporate, at Pannone. A statement from Pannone Corporate LLP said that they will be joined by around 50 other partners and lawyers from the commercial side of Pannone’s practice and that the firm will focus on its existing client base while competing in the upper mid-market across its practice areas.

Jonson commented: ‘We are all hugely excited by this opportunity to do something different. We have the ability to offer continuity to our clients from day one with the same teams and levels of client service that our clients have been used to.”

Grant added: ‘We believe our proposition is very much in line with current market requirements and our clients will be hugely supportive of our plans. We intend to offer an attractive alternative to the traditional law firm model.’

This latest move will further consolidate Slater and Gordon’s position in the personal injury sector, particularly in the Manchester region. In October the firm completed the acquistion of Manchester-based clinical negligence and PI practice John Pickering & Partners. This is in addition to Manchester personal injury firm Fentons in August, adding around 280 staff to the rapidly growing firm, as well as Russell, Jones & Walker for £53.8m last year, Goodmans Law and the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters.

This summer Slater and Gordon revealed a total 2012/13 revenue increase of 36.7% to A$297.6m and net profits up by 67.6% to A$41.9m.

Legal Business

Updated: Crunch time – Pannone partners face imminent vote on Slater & Gordon acquisition


Pannone’s ongoing discussions with Australian-listed Slater & Gordon (S&G) over the sale of its consumer services and personal injury (PI) practice are coming to a head, with an equity partnership vote originally scheduled for next Tuesday (12 November) now put back until 19 November.

Should the Manchester-based firm’s partnership approve the business sale agreement – which requires a 75% vote – the firm’s board will now meet on 25 November to exchange agreements. Until today (8 November) that date had been set at Friday 15 November.

To date the discussions have been hampered by disagreements over how to house the corporate team, which is expected to be hived off and continue to practice under the Pannone name. There are also questions over whether the 241-lawyer firm’s white label service Affinity and Connect2Law network fits with S&G’s model.

S&G is expected to take the serious injury, clinical negligence, property, and family teams, together with certain parts of the dispute resolution practice.

Now listed in the LB100 top 65 law firms, S&G, which generates an annual revenue of £45.5m, confirmed in late October that it had acquired Manchester-based clinical negligence and PI practice John Pickering & Partners.

The newly-acquired Northern firm has offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Halifax and annual revenue of £3m. S&G’s UK chief executive Neil Kinsella said the acquisition would see its operations in the UK grow by approximately 27 staff.

Should the Pannone deal go ahead, it will further consolidate the acquisitive S&G’s position in the personal injury sector, particularly in the Manchester region. Other recent acquisitions including Manchester personal injury firm Fentons in August, which added around 280 staff, as well as Russell, Jones & Walker for £53.8m last year, Goodmans Law and the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters.

‘It’s giving them a chance to almost leapfrog Irwin Mitchell, and possibly make them the biggest player, and at the higher end of this market’ one regional partner commented.

Pannone declined to comment.

Legal Business

Pannone presses for S&G deal in wake of failed Cobbetts bid


Having previously pursued a merger with the now defunct Cobbetts (as it turned out, a lucky reprieve), Pannone’s current discussions with Australian-listed Slater & Gordon (S&G) are seeing talks over which parts of the Manchester-based firm’s diverse business will be included in any deal.

With the firm effectively split into four limbs: its commercial arm; the private client, clinical negligence and personal injury business; its white label service Affinity; and Connect2Law network, discussions are ongoing as to whether the latter two divisions fit with S&G’s model.

Legal Business

Further PI shake up appears imminent as Pannone votes on Slater & Gordon part acquisition


Acquisitive Slater & Gordon looks set to acquire the personal injury practice of Manchester-based Pannone as sources close to the firm say it will vote next week in what is tipped to be a done deal.

The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed firm, which last month announced its acquisition of Manchester-based personal injury firm Fentons, is understood to have been in talks with Pannone for several months.

Given that the firm’s personal injury practice is thought to make up for around 60% of the firm’s revenues, this move could lead to the break-up of the firm and see its referral service, Connect2Law, and white-labelling arm, Affinity, sold off as well, although sources suggest that Slater & Gordon is not interested in any of Pannone’s commercial legal practice.

Neither Pannone nor Slater & Gordon made any attempt to deny press reports of an impending deal, defaulting to the standard non-comment statements that are routinely deployed in such scenarios.

‘It’s no secret that we have an ambition to continue to grow our business in the UK, including by acquiring firms who share our values,’ said Neil Kinsella, CEO of Slater & Gordon. As Slater & Gordon is a publically listed company, any announcements must first be made to the ASX and Kinsella added he is ‘not in a position to comment on any specific anonymous reports at this time’.

Pannone also released a statement saying: ‘We have been linked to many firms over recent years and will always look at opportunities which align with the firm’s strategic aims; however there is nothing to report on this particular rumour.’

Firms that have been linked to Pannone in the past include the now defunct Cobbetts, which the firm was thought to be in talks with regarding a merger last year.

This latest move would further consolidate Slater & Gordon’s position in the personal injury sector. Last month it was revealed that the firm is to acquire Manchester-based personal injury firm Fentons, in a deal expected to be completed by next month. This would add around 280 staff to the rapidly growing firm, which has already acquired Russell, Jones & Walker for £53.8m last year, Goodmans Law and the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters.

One Manchester-based partner commented: ‘Due to the cost associated with running a personal injury practice, not many firms get into that line of work.’ However, Slater & Gordon last month revealed a total 2012/13 revenue increase of 36.7% to A$297.6m and net profits up by 67.6% to A$41.9m.

Legal Business

In-house Round-up: Swiss Re GC to DAC, Co-op’s Gulliford to Pannone, FACT appoints first GC and takes on senior legal team


If it had seemed that the flow of UK hires between private practice and in-house was very much one-sided in the corporates’ favour a recent run of high profile moves has gone some way to evening out the score.

Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) co-founder Jonathan Gulliford has joined Pannone Affinity as a consultant as part of an ongoing growth drive at the Manchester firm’s white label legal arm.

The legal division, which was launched in 2011 by Pannone to capitalise on opportunities presented by the Legal Services Act, provides commoditised services to a range of clients including insurers Allianz and Aria.

Gulliford joined the Co-op from RAC Legal Services in 2006 and was one of the founders of the household name’s legal division. In 2012 CLS became the first SRA regulated alternative business structure (ABS), recording a total revenue of £33m in 2011/12.

Gulliford said of his recent move: ‘With so many opportunities in the legal market post LSA and LASPO the potential for growth is huge.’

The first week of this month also saw Swiss Re corporate and prudential regulation lawyer Adrian Williams (pictured) join DAC Beachcroft’s London office from the reinsurance company’s headquarters in Zurich.

Prior to Swiss Re, Williams was head of legal at QBE European Operations in London, where he established the inaugural in-house legal team. Head of insurance at DAC, David Pollitt, said: ‘Our insurance clients have been telling us for some time that they want their panel firms to be able to service their needs from a corporate/commercial advisory perspective as well as from a claims perspective. We have responded to this client demand with the recruitment of Adrian.’

Williams added: ‘A lot of law firms I was coming across as a GC weren’t getting their service right even now. I’ve always really admired the successful partners in my field and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to apply what I’d learnt as a GC and to build something that was as successful but had my own slant on it.’

The moves come after the FT’s high profile GC Tim Bratton this month joined Berwin Leighton Paisner’s flexible staffing operation Lawyers on Demand as its first practice development director.

Elsewhere, a number of interesting moves between corporates have also been announced this month including The Federation Against Copyright Theft’s (Fact) appointment of former Group Lotus IP lawyer Byron Jacobson as its first permanent GC.

To date FACT has relied on external advisers, including Wiggin, Russell-Cooke and Belfast’s Edwards & Co and has taken on secondees, including Wiggin IP litigation partner Neil Parkes, who was acting GC for six months from 2011 to early 2012 while still an associate.

Prior to Lotus, dual US-UK qualified Jacobson was at Bristol-based drinks group Allied Domecq, having moved to the UK from specialist IP firm Nelson & Roediger in Phoenix, Arizona, and before that Dorsey & Whitney’s Denver office.

Jacobson has not yet been replaced in the legal team at Lotus, which is managed by head of legal services Karen Bloodworth.

In the US, meanwhile, online real estate marketplace has reunited a senior legal team, all formerly together at Yahoo! with former GC Michael Callahan named as’s executive vice president, chief legal officer and company secretary.

Mindy Heppberger and Eugene Lao, who while they worked at Yahoo! were vice president and deputy GC, have joined in those roles. Lao joins most recently from a stint at US social gaming company Zygna having left Yahoo! in 2011. Callahan, meanwhile, resigned from Yahoo! last summer.

While at Yahoo!, Callahan built a legal, public policy, ethics and compliance, and IP department, which grew threefold to 200 under his leadership. He acted as key advisor to the executive team and board of directors through acquisitions, investments and divestitures including the strategic investment and restructuring of Yahoo!’s holdings in the Alibaba Group.