Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – TMT Team of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – TMT Team of the Year

The entries have been assessed, the shortlists have been drawn up and our panel of general counsel judges have had their say: we are now delighted to reveal the winner of TMT Team of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

The winner of this category has demonstrated market-leading commercial or regulatory expertise through its advice on a specific, IP, technology or media case or transaction.

 


 


Sponsored by

Winner – RPC

RPC’s TMT team, led by partners Mark Crichard and Charles Buckworth, advised LINK on the hugely-complex tender process for outsourcing all telecoms and technical infrastructure that sit behind its network (as well as the provision of settlement services) – a network that handles more than three billion transactions annually.

This was high-stakes, bet-the-company work. The tender requirement followed a mandate from the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) that LINK run a competitive process for all its underlying switching and settlement technology and services, to ensure sufficient competition. Get it wrong and not only could that spell the end for LINK, but it could also create havoc for business and consumers.

RPC had to plan, construct and execute a competitive process that closely mirrored a public procurement, with all the stringent controls, processes and requirements for transparency and equality of treatment. This created a far-more challenging proposition in what was already a huge technology outsourcing.

RPC collaborated with LINK to draft contracts and run full, parallel negotiations with shortlisted bidders – while satisfying and reporting on complex regulatory requirements, many of which had never been translated into contract requirements before. In a standard outsourcing you typically only need to satisfy the client. But here, RPC had to meet competing demands of LINK’s regulators and obtain approval by over 35 stakeholders, including LINK’s card-issuing and acquirer members.

LINK had a regulatory obligation to complete the process on time or risk sanction by the PSR – so the clock was always ticking. Given the number of stakeholders – several outside the UK – and the novel elements to the deal, working closely as a team was critical. RPC helped LINK deliver the deal on time, to budget, against an extremely challenging schedule and intrusive regulatory oversight.

In the words of John Howells, LINK CEO: ‘We couldn’t have had better support from RPC in what was a critical and complex transaction. They really understood the commercial and regulatory drivers, delivering a service that was clear, commercial, focused and well-managed. What’s more, they were all a pleasure to deal with – good humoured to the end.’

Highly commended – Reed Smith

A Reed Smith team led by Michael Skrein achieved a unanimous Supreme Court win for BT and EE in a case concerning the allocation of cost liability for implementing orders for ISPs to block access to counterfeit websites.

This was a four-year legal battle that culminated in a ground-breaking unanimous 5-0 verdict by the Supreme Court judges. It overturned the Court of Appeal (which upheld the High Court), holding that luxury brands such as Cartier, and not the ISPs, must foot the bill for the costs of implementing orders for the ISPs to block access to counterfeit websites. Given the huge ramifications for intellectual property rights on the internet, this seminal case was watched closely all over the world.

Other nominations

Bristows

Leveraging its lengthy history and expertise in IP and technology, the firm was engaged by Genomics England, the body behind the 100,000 Genome Project, to help develop its PanelApp online tool.

Eversheds Sutherland

Succeeding through a competitive pitch to Orange Business Services, the firm advised the client on the development of its Information and Communications Technology Legal Certification Programme.

Gowling WLG

In a high-stakes patent dispute, involving only the second successful use of an Arrow Declaration, the firm represented GlaxoSmithKline in the High Court against Vectura, the UK-based drug formulation company.

Pinsent Masons

In a landmark case, the firm successfully represented ZyXEL Communications in patent proceedings involving the alleged infringement of two standard essential patents used in broadband technology.

Legal Business

‘On the front foot’ – RPC upbeat after holding steady amid year of change

‘On the front foot’ –  RPC upbeat after holding steady amid year of change

RPC posted muted revenue growth for 2019/20 following changes to the firms practice lines, its latest financial results reveal, while profit per equity partner (PEP) saw a slight dip. 

Turnover at the insurance and litigation specialist rose 1% to £110.1m, with the firm’s commercial & financial markets disputes, insurance, and technology & media practices among the primary drivers of growth as the financial year closed. PEP, meanwhile, fell 4% to £424,000, albeit after a striking 27% rise last year to £442,000 off the back of a contraction in the firm’s equity partnership. 

Revenue growth is slightly down on 2018/19 when the firm managed to increase like-for-like revenues 4% after recording its first full financial year since the selling of half of its management consulting arm. However, the firm reports that after removing its now departed UK construction & projects practice and Hong Kong marine practice from the equation, revenue growth for the past financial year is a pacier 7%.

RPC has undergone a series of structural changes in recent years. In addition to streamlining its practice and selling a chunk of its consulting business, the firm also announced in a surprise move last year it would be ditching its all-equity partnership structure to introduce fixed-share partners and salaried partners for the first time. Meanwhile, the firm also confirmed its new senior partner last month, with Oliver Bray assuming the role on a three-year term replacing commercial disputes partner Rupert Boswall. 

However, the firm shrugged off the uncertainty of 2020 to start the year in an expansive fashion, recruiting a new restructuring and insolvency team in London from DWF before promoting 15 partners globally in May an increase of six on last year. 

Attention will now turn to how RPC approaches the year ahead. Comments managing partner James Miller (pictured): ‘We finished the financial year very much on the front foot, and revenue generation levels have remained high during lockdown. Looking ahead, we have started the new financial year as positively as we ended the last one and I remain very optimistic that the future – despite considerable economic and political uncertainties and the challenges faced from Covid-19 – will bring exciting new opportunities with existing clients as well as new. 

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk 

Legal Business

Disputes perspectives: Geraldine Elliott

Disputes perspectives: Geraldine Elliott

I wanted a professional career. My father was a doctor but very keen I didn’t do medicine. I had a scientific background and law is a very analytical process. I’d watched a few television programmes about criminal lawyers.

Law was the right career for me. The life of doctors is very tough and there’s effectively one employer, whereas in law it’s easier for you to create a career because it’s constantly changing and there’s always something that can grab your interest. New people coming onto the market and changes in the competition make a massive difference.

Legal Business

RPC’s surprise partnership shake-up signals focus on next generation but is the firm still playing too safe?

RPC’s surprise partnership shake-up signals focus on next generation but is the firm still playing too safe?

Marco Cillario assesses the background to RPC’s decision to abandon all-equity structure

At a November press event held by a top-25 UK law firm, Legal Business was struck by a sudden spike in the guests’ interest in RPC. The 76-partner firm has long been a respected insurance and litigation business, and solid mid-weight operator, but not generally a firm to cause too many ripples of interest among peers.

Legal Business

RPC abandons all-equity structure in sweeping partnership shake-up

RPC abandons all-equity structure in sweeping partnership shake-up

Reversing a common trend among many City firms in recent years, RPC is to introduce the roles of fixed share and salaried partner for the first time in its history – a move the firm said reflected ‘changing expectations of people, market and client demand’.

However, the status of its current 76 equity partners will remain unchanged – the move only applies to future promotions and hires.

The UK top-40 firm announced today (19 November) it will move away from an all-equity partnership structure with immediate effect. ‘We’ve spent a lot of time listening to people’s expectations and considerations when it comes to their career progression; and listening to what’s happening in the wider market,’ said managing partner James Miller (pictured). ‘We’ve taken on board what we’ve heard and created a career structure that is right for our people and right for our clients, now and into the future.

‘Our all-equity structure has served us very well, but we know that the bar to achieving partnership here has been seen as very high. High standards are a good thing, of course, and that won’t change, but we saw the need to offer our people alternative career destinations with titles that reflect their seniority and value – value to clients and value to the business. These new roles give people a credible and recognisable alternative to full-equity partnership – if that’s the route they wish to take.’

The changes mean there will be five senior roles for lawyers at the firm: full equity, fixed share and salary partner, as well as of counsel and senior associate.

RPC has tightened its equity lately. It shrank its partner ranks by nine to 74 in 2018/19, resulting in a 27% growth in its profits per equity partner (PEP) to £442,000 in 2018/19, while revenue was £108.6m.

While a number of firms have in recent years have edged towards all-equity partnerships, RPC feels this approach tackles concerns in the industry around retaining senior associates and junior partners at a time when competition for talent is tough and several US firms offer quicker career paths to their lawyers. Kirkland & Ellis has long made a success of its strategy of promoting many associates to salary partner early before giving a selected few a shot at its tighter equity.

Miller concluded: ‘This new flexible partnership structure will broaden the pool of people we can bring in to the partnership to offer greater strength in depth for clients across our core areas of focus. The battle for talent is fierce. This new structure will help us to retain our best people, attract new talent, and deliver better outcomes for our clients.’

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Very encouraging’: RPC posts profit growth in shrinking partnership after splitting off consulting business

‘Very encouraging’: RPC posts profit growth in shrinking partnership after splitting off consulting business

RPC has reported revenues of £108.6m for its legal business for 2018/19 after selling half of its management consulting arm.

The firm, which offloaded 50% of RPC Consulting to software company Marriott Sinclair in April 2018, announced today (25 July) that both like-for-like revenue and net profit for its legal arm alone rose 4% in 2018/19.

The four-year-old consulting arm, meanwhile, increased turnover by 33% from around £7m to £9.3m in the year to April 2019 and turned a profit for the first time after losing £2m in the previous financial year.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) at the law firm was up a striking 27% to £442,000 in 2018/19, as its all-equity partnership shrank by nine to 74.

Direct comparisons with its 2017/18 results are difficult, as the consulting arm was still fully owned by the firm last year. They showed higher revenue of £112.7m but much lower profits and PEP at £28.9m and £348,000 respectively.

Speaking to Legal Business, chief financial officer Steven Rowan said he was ‘pretty pleased’ with the performance of RPC’s legal business. ‘We had a strong performance from our core areas: strong litigation, decent corporate activity and a solid performance from our insurance practice.’

The firm’s equity spread increased considerably in 2018/19 as the top of the equity shot up 40% from £1.2m to £1.7m, while the bottom of equity was marginally up 4% from £185,000 to £192,000. ‘We want to reward top performers at the firm, whether partners or associates, and the top of the equity reflects [this],’ added Rowan.

Launched in 2015, RPC Consulting was loss-making in its first three years of activity after receiving substantial investment from the partnership. Rowan said losses by RPC Consulting were ‘in line with what we were expecting because it was a near start-up business’.

As of 30 April 2018 the firm moved into a 50/50 joint-venture arrangement with Marriott Sinclair, a Cambridge software company that was previously acquired by RPC Consulting in July 2015.

‘RPC Consulting has moved into a new phase of growth, so we wanted to ensure that the relationship with the law firm was appropriate for the next stage of its development, and allow it to operate with more of a sense of independence,’ said Rowan. He added that the business was still in the process of finalising its profit figure for 2018/19 but it made a ‘very encouraging profit’.

He denied that the reduction in equity partner numbers was part of a strategic review: ‘People come and go.’ The firm added five laterals to its ranks this year and promoted six to its partnership but losses included its head of construction and projects Dan Presto, who moved to Fieldfisher alongside fellow partner David Thorne in addition to a team of five associates.

The firm recently announced an official alliance with Chicago-based law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, which will see the two firms work together on pitching and client marketing in the insurance sector as well as collaborating on professional indemnity mandates.

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Ashurst makes up eight in the City amid reduced global round as DAC Beachcroft mints 19, RPC six and TLT four

Ashurst makes up eight in the City amid reduced global round as DAC Beachcroft mints 19, RPC six and TLT four

Ashurst has promoted 21 partners globally, including eight in London, after a slightly reduced promotion round which saw Australia and the UK pick up the lion’s share of new partners. DAC Beachcroft, meanwhile, promoted 19 to partner in a significantly bolstered global round while RPC minted six in the UK and TLT promoted four.

In London, Ashurst promoted corporate lawyers Braeden Donnelly, Gaby Jones and Aaron Shute. In tax, meanwhile, the firm promoted Tim Gummer and in competition the firm made up Steven Vaz. Tim Edmonds and Nicholas Hilder were also promoted in global markets and projects respectively, while Emma Johnson was made a disputes partner.

The round is good news for the firm’s diversity numbers, as the promotions will see 25% of the firm’s partnership be female as of 1 May when the promotions take effect.

Overall promotion numbers are marginally down on last year, when the firm made up 24 lawyers globally, including nine promoted in the City. Australia made up the majority of this year’s promotions with nine new partner, while one partner apiece went to Germany, France, Hong Kong and UAE.

Ashurst global managing partner Paul Jenkins commented: ‘The firm is delivering an impressive level of performance and this has enabled us to make a good number of promotions across our offices and practices.’

DAC Beachcroft, meanwhile, announced today (30 April) a significantly increased promotion round. Nineteen new partners have been made up at the firm, an increase of 11 from last year. Four of the new partners are in the City, three of which are in insurance litigation, with the fourth in claims solutions. In the regions, the firm made up four lawyers in Leeds, three in Bristol, two in Newcastle and Birmingham and one in Manchester. Abroad, the firm promoted a single lawyer in Dublin, Madrid and Mexico City.

RPC also announced its promotion round today, with six new partners made up in the UK across its London and Bristol offices.

Commercial lawyer Charles Buckworth, IP lawyer Ben Mark, corporate lawyer Peter Sugden, litigator Alan Williams and tax disputes lawyer Robert Waterson were all made up in London. Professional indemnity lawyer, Rachael Healey, was minted in Bristol.

Finally, TLT has made four partner promotions, down from last year’s six. Commercial lawyer Kuldip Dhanoya, regulatory lawyer Duncan Reed, corporate lawyer Nina Searle and housing lawyer Shazia Bashir were all promoted this year.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Ashurst partner promotions in full:

 

Anita Choi – Corporate, Sydney

James Clarke – Dispute Resolution, Melbourne

Gerrit Clasen – Corporate, Frankfurt

Rebecca Cope – Digital Economy, Sydney

Yvonne Cross – Projects, Dubai

Jacques Dabreteau – Projects, Paris

Madeleine de Garis – Global Loans, Melbourne

Braeden Donnelly – Corporate, London

Tim Edmonds – Global Markets, London

Melissa Fraser – Competition, Sydney

Tim Gummer – Tax, London

Nicholas Hilder – Projects, London

Emma Johnson (née Martin) – Dispute Resolution, London

Gaby Jones – Corporate, London

Caroline Lindsey – Projects, Perth

Dean Moroz – Investment Funds, Hong Kong

Aaron Shute – Corporate, London

Elissa Speight – Employment, Canberra

Julia Sutherland – Employment, Perth

Lynda Tully – Corporate, Melbourne

Steven Vaz – Competition, London

DAC Beachcroft partner promotions in full:

 

Sophie Lawless – Claims Solutions, Birmingham

Kevan Smith – Claims Solutions, Birmingham

Stan Campbell – Real Estate, Bristol

Sara Eaton – Clinical Risk, Bristol

Louise Wiltshire – Healthcare Regulatory, Bristol

Niamh McKeever – Professional Liability, Dublin

Jeremy Bennett – Claims Solutions, Leeds

Shruti Brockett – Business Services, Leeds

Charlotte Le Maire – Claims Solutions, Leeds

Paul McGough – Healthcare Regulatory, Leeds

Sarah Crowther – Insurance Litigation, London

Olu Dansu – Insurance Litigation, London

Andrew Sheppard – Claims Solutions, London

Toby Vallance – Insurance Litigation, London

Pilar Rodríguez – Insurance Litigation, Madrid

Morgan Nash – Claims Solutions, Manchester

Emma Bowens – Claims Solutions, Newcastle

Dawn McIntosh – Clinical Risk, Newcastle

Salvador Enrique Urbano Tejeda – Insurance litigation, Mexico City

RPC partner promotions in full:

 

Charles Buckworth – commercial, London

Ben Mark – intellectual property, London

Peter Sugden – corporate, London

Alan Williams – commercial litigation, London

Robert Waterson – tax disputes, London

Rachel Healey – professional indemnity, Bristol

TLT partner promotions in full:

 

Kuldip Dhanoya – commercial

Duncan Reed – regulatory

Nina Searle – corporate

Shazia Bashir – housing

Legal Business

‘A third way’: Taylor Wessing enters alliance with West Coast leader Wilson Sonsini

‘A third way’: Taylor Wessing enters alliance with West Coast leader Wilson Sonsini

Marco Cillario assesses Taylor Wessing’s alliance with Silicon Valley royalty Wilson Sonsini as RPC forges US insurance partnership

While the issue of securing a meaningful US footprint for many UK-bred firms endures, Taylor Wessing UK managing partner Shane Gleghorn claims his firm has found the way to gain transatlantic coverage without a complicated merger.

Legal Business

Lead sponsor message – RPC: The essential ingredients

Lead sponsor message – RPC: The essential ingredients

James Miller, RPC’s managing partner, looks at what makes the high performers in this year’s GC Powerlist

Vision, purpose, focus. In my experience as a managing partner, these are essential ingredients for high performance organisations; essential ingredients for high performance teams; and essential ingredients for high performance individuals.

Legal Business

Chicago firepower for RPC as insurance team secures formal US tie-up

Chicago firepower for RPC as insurance team secures formal US tie-up

RPC has announced its insurance practice will form an official alliance with Chicago-based law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson.

The partnership will see both firms deepen their existing relationship in the insurance sector, with talks regarding a formal alliance developing throughout January. The firms will now work together on pitching and client marketing as well as collaborating on professional indemnity mandates.

RPC insurance head, Simon Laird, told Legal Business: ‘This is very much an insurance sector play. Our clients have a big US dynamic and it’s somewhere we wanted to be more strategic. This is coming off the back of extensive client feedback and we chose Hinshaw because of the quality of conversation we had with them.’

Hinshaw & Culbertson is a national firm with 21 offices across the US, including New York, Massachusetts, Florida and California. Like RPC, the firm has a strong insurance offering and provides the UK firm with an entry point into the more mature market in the US. The American outfit appointed a new chairman last week, with Peter Sullivan taking the helm.

‘We have been working together for a while with discussions taking place over the last 12 to 18 months,’ Laird continued. ‘This is not an exclusive thing – there was not a day where we decided to stop and do something differently – things have just progressed and will continue to progress moving forward.’

The alliance makes RPC the latest insurance-focused firm to develop its US presence over the last two years, with Clyde &Co, HFW and Kennedys all having made moves. Taylor Wessing, meanwhile, entered an alliance with West Coast leader Wilson Sonsini last week with a tech-focused relationship.

The announcement follows RPC’s financial rebound last year, when profits increased 10% to hit £112.7m while net income rose to £28.9m, an improvement on the firm’s disappointing 2016/17.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk