Future RPC trainees will attend courses exclusively at the University of Law (ULaw) from September 2017, after the insurance firm switched to the training provider to prepare its professional courses in advance of the controversial new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE).
From this September until 2020, trainees at the firm will be required to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) and an MSc in Law, Business and Management at the university’s Moorgate centre as sole provider, in a partnership RPC training principal Simon Hart described as the firm’s response to the ‘forthcoming radical reforms to legal education’, having previously worked with another group.
ULaw and RPC will also partner to design a tailored new insurance law module, replacing its previous course, in response to changes introduced by the UK Insurance Act 2015. This will be introduced in the 2017/18 academic year.
‘A large part of our practice is in the insurance market. One of the core areas of our firm is insurance, so we want to make sure that all our lawyers have the correct training in that department.’
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced in April that a new single, centrally-set examination will come into use from September 2020, replacing the current requirements for trainee solicitors to take the LPC or for non-law graduates, the GDL, by combining both into one examination. The decision followed two consultation rounds during which City lawyers raised various concerns. The City of London Law Society objected to the multiple-choice nature of the assessment, which according to the lobby group lacks the ability to test the full nuance of law knowledge.
The SRA argued that the SQE will provide a ‘more reliable and rigorous test of competence than is possible at present’ and ensure all new solicitors are assessed to the same standard.
Hart told Legal Business: ‘ULaw has followed the SRA consultation process very closely and has worked with us and other City firms to give us an insight about what was going on and understand our concerns about it.’
The SQE is split into two parts: SQE stage one and stage two. The first stage will test a candidate’s ability to use and apply legal knowledge through six assessments, while the second will test legal skills through ten practical assessments.
‘My concern was about whether the stage one exam papers would be sufficient to ensure anybody who arrives in the office has the correct academic legal training. The SRA has gone a long way to giving commercial lawyers reassurance about that,’ said Hart.
He said ULaw was thinking forward on how it is going to reorganise its courses as a result of the new exam, adding: ‘The firm and the university will work together to understand the nature of those changes as they take shape over the next three years’.
Granted university status in November 2012, ULaw already provides study training for lawyers at Linklaters, DLA Piper, CMS, Ashurst, and Berwin Leighton Paisner and a paralegal apprenticeship scheme for Freshfields and Hogan Lovells.
RPC said recently that it will retain 82% of its trainees this autumn, a 15% increase from last year’s intake. Its global profits fell 8% over the year end 2016/17.
City-headquartered professional services firm RPC will retain 82% of its trainees this autumn, a 15% increase from last year’s intake, as the firm sees growth in its Asia business.
The firm said that 14 of its 17 London-based second-year trainees have secured newly-qualified (NQs) roles at the firm, the majority of which will work in its London office while of the remaining two, one will be based in Bristol and the other will permanently transfer to its Hong Kong office in January 2018.
Three of the NQs will join the firm’s insurance practice and three commercial disputes team. The corporate group, IP and technology and commercial contracts will each welcome two NQs. One qualifying trainee will join the media practice, one construction and projects.
RPC recently posted its global profits, which revealed an 8% fall to £26.4m this year from last year, due to a challenging year and investments the firm made. While growth in turnover also slowed, it reached £103m, a 2% rise on the previous year, with the Hong Kong and Singapore practices performing particularly well, according to managing partner James Miller.
Simon Hart, partner and training principal, said he was satisfied with ‘such a high number’. He added that the firm was not able to accommodate all of the trainees ‘due to certain departments being heavily over-subscribed with applicants’.
Although below the firm’s 100% retention rate in 2014, the rate remains healthier than than 2015, when RPC retained 79% of its final-year trainees and last year’s result, when two thirds of trainees secured NQ positions.
The firm is comprised of 79 all equity partners and more than 300 other lawyers and is known for its work with the insurance industry.
RPC appointed Miller as its new managing partner in January.
RPC branched out into management consultancy in 2015, focused on its core insurance clients. RPC Consulting has five partners and more than 40 other people including consultants and quant developers.
In 2016, RPC moved to target in-house lawyers with a secondmanagement consultancy business. Dubbed RPC Perform, the consultancy is headed by Julia Chain. It offers core services to in-house lawyers including strategic and operational efficiency, managing relationships with external law firms, and soft skills, including team, personal and leadership development.
RPC’s 2016/17 global profits fell 8% to £26.4m, down from last year’s £28.5m, in a year of investment and external challenges for the firm. Growth in turnover also slowed, reaching £103m, a modest 2% rise on the previous year.
James Miller (pictured), who took over as managing partner from Jonathan Watmough in January, admitted the profits had come in ‘below our expectations’. He attributed the drop, however, to continued investment in RPC Consulting and its Centre for Legal Leadership, as well as challenging external market factors.
Miller said that, ‘as for other firms, the referendum and its surprising outcome affected the volume of work coming through the pipeline, so revenue was lower than we hoped’.
The profit per equity partner (PEP) also dropped 8% from £363,000 to £334,000.
In recent years, RPC’s growth has consistently risen, with a record 6% increase in revenue in 2015/16, to £100.5m from £94.4m. The previous year it rose 12%.
The fall in profits contrasted to 2014/5’s 19% increase, and by a more modest 1% rise in 2015/16.
Miller noted, however, the strong performance by RPC’s Asian teams in Hong Kong and Singapore He expressed his satisfaction at RPC picking up ‘some excellent new mandates and panel places across the business globally’.
He was also optimistic for the upcoming financial year, and said the firm sought an uptick in corporate work, and looked forward to its commercial disputes pipeline ‘shaping up nicely’ as well as a strong-looking insurance business.
The firm, made up of 79 all equity partners and more than 300 other lawyers, is known for its work with the insurance industry and branched out into management consultancy in 2015, targeting its core insurance clients.
Berrymans Lace Mawer, DWF and Plexus have also been selected to provide legal advice across England, Wales and Scotland.
Motor and casualty will be provided exclusively by DWF and Plexus for claims under £250,000.
Commenting on the panel review, Alan Brownlee, head of claims procurement for QBE European Operations said: ‘ We are confident that these appointments will allow us to further develop the strategic partnerships with our panel that are critical in enabling us to deliver truly excellent service, innovation, outcomes and value to our customers in the years to come.’
Earlier this month, Legal Business reported that Bond Dickinson made up to five voluntary redundancies in its Bristol office after the firm lost out on a panel spot with QBE.
In a statement, the firm said: ‘Earlier this year following on from a panel loss we had to undertake a restructuring exercise with our professional risks team which resulted in voluntary redundancies. Fortunately, all of those solicitors who have now left the firm are moving on to new roles.’
Last October, Legal Business revealed that QBE was launching a review of its UK claims panel, following the appointment of Carol Scobie as group general counsel and company secretary in January 2016.
The UK panel, which was last reviewed in 2014, is responsible for carrying out a large amount of disputes work for the insurer.
The last UK review was overseen by then European claims director Dominic Clayden, now group chief claims officer, with firms including BLM, Mayer Brown, Plexus Law and RPC making the final list.
Travers Smith has unveiled its partner promotions for 2017, with four female associates making the cut. The number is slightly less than last year, when six associates (two of whom were women) were made up.
The new partners will assume their roles on July 1 2017, and all offer a different expertise. Heather Gagen has been made up in dispute resolution, possessing extensive experience as a commercial litigator. Gagen’s practice is broad and includes acting on shareholder claims and fraud cases.
Hannah Manning has been promoted to Travers’ tax department, specialising in tax on private equity transactions. Manning recently advised the management team of Source Holdings on its sale to investment managers Invesco UK.
Emma Havas will become a partner in the firm’s private equity practice. Havas advises clients such as Treehouse Group and Camden Ventures on matters such as group simplifications, management incentive plans and bolt-ons.
Travers’ real estate team has been broadened with the promotion of Emma Pereira. Pereira advises real estate funds on high-value investments and carries experience in the retail, student accommodation and logistics sectors.
Travers’ senior partner Chris Hale (pictured) commented: ‘We are excited not just to be able to promote these talented lawyers to the partnership, but to have our first ever female cohort of new partners. Each individual has demonstrated a strong track record of delivering an outstanding service to clients and we are confident they will each play an important part in the future success of both the teams in which they work and the firm as a whole.’
Elsewhere, Taylor Wessing also posted a slightly reduced promotion round as the firm made up ten partners, down on last year’s 15. RPC has promoted one more than last year, making up four partners to the firm’s London office.
National newspaper groups including the publishers of The Times, the Daily Mail and The Mirror, represented by RPC and Bates Wells Braithwaite, have lost an appeal against ‘no win no fee’ style pay outs in libel and privacy claims.
Rules under Conditional Fee Agreements which are used in defamation and privacy cases can potentially add millions to the legal costs newspapers have to pay out for claimants.
The newspapers argued the threat of the damages was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case saw the Supreme Court reject an appeal over phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers, which will cost the publisher £1.2m in damages, as well as joint appeals by Times Newspapers and Associated Newspapers.
The case was heard before Lord Neuberger, President Lord Mance, Lord Sumption, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge.
The government is currently undergoing a consultation into introducing a new costs regime for media law under section 40 of the Crime and Costs Act following the Leveson Inquiry.
RPC litigation partner Keith Mathieson represented claimants Mirror and Daily Mail publishers, instructing Gavin Millar QC and Ben Silverstone from Matrix Chambers for Associated Newspapers and Lord Pannick QC of Blackstone Chambers and Jamie Carpenter of Hailsham Chambers for MGN.
Bates Wells Braithwaite partner Rupert Earle instructed Richard Rampton QC and Kate Wilson of One Brick Court for Times Newspapers.
The respondents Gary Flood, Andrew Miller and Sadie Frost, with former England footballer Paul Gascoigne and others, were represented respectively by firms Edwin Coe (instructing James Price QC and William Bennett of 5RB) Simons Muirhead & Burton (instructing William McCormick QC of Ely Place Chambers and James Laughland of Temple Garden Chambers) and Atkins Thomson (instructing Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix, Simon Browne QC of Temple Garden and Jeremy Reed of Hogarth Chambers.
Read more in: ‘Shock and Flaw – is Leveson workable?’
RPC’s managing partner on the ‘business first’ role of GCs and their opportunities in the current economic climate
2016. The year that turned the world on its head. And when the world is spinning on that axis too, you can bet your bottom euro that good lawyers will be at the heart of the action.
With long-term managing partner Jonathan Watmough stepping down in December last year, insurance head James Miller has taken over the reins at RPC. Legal Business caught up with him to discuss the priorities for the new leader.
What is your immediate strategy for RPC?
So far it has been business as usual. I’m very lucky to come in on the back of 11.5% turnover growth over five years. Insurance has been one of our core strengths and we will continue to invest there, but my focus now is on the whole firm. Really we try to invest in people: if we felt we were under strength we would hire, but I am quite happy with our strategic balance.
Chain (pictured) joins Millnet, which was recently acquired by US firm Advanced Discovery, as UK managing director. Millnet enjoyed turnover of £13m in 2015/16, and claims to be the largest eDiscovery and document services firm in the UK.
Chain had spent only around 18 months with RPC, founding its in-house consulting arm RPC Perform in May 2016. The firm has yet to choose a replacement to lead RPC Perform after the departure of Chain and two of her key deputies.
Several of Chain’s team at RPC Perform are expected to move to Millnet, including Varun Srikumar, who joined RPC from Royal Bank of Scotland, and Andrew Dey, who arrived from Barclays. The group exit leaves RPC Perform without the bulk of its consultants.
Chain was UK managing partner of Anderson Legal until 1998 and later general counsel of T-Mobile, before moving into consultancy work as managing director Huron Legal and later founding her own in-house consultancy team.
Chain told Legal Business: ‘Millnet is the largest eDiscovery firm in England and its acquisition by Advanced Discovery has taken it to a worldwide stage. We found RPC Perform was becoming more of a technology-focused business. Millnet seemed like an ideal fit for the team as we look to move the company into working with corporates. We recognise that law firm clients are still important, and we want to build on that success, as well as expanding further into European markets and the Nordics.’
RPC has recently seen a handover in top level management with the departure of long-term managing partner Jonathan Watmough. Insurance head James Miller was elected managing partner in January ahead of commercial head Tim Anderson.
Miller said: ‘Naturally we’re disappointed as Julia is a class act, but we can see she has been given a fantastic opportunity. The focus of the team’s work had begun to shift more towards technology solutions, so moving to a technology provider is a natural step for her and her team – we understand that. As a client of Millnet, we look forward to continuing to work with Julia over the years to come.’