Legal Business

Deal View: A niche within a finance niche gives Simmons that much-needed edge after years of drift

Deal View: A niche within a finance niche gives Simmons that much-needed edge after years of drift

While some law firms claim to be all things to all clients, for almost a decade Simmons & Simmons has focused its efforts with increasing rigour on a select number of sectors. Given its unhappy period of drift as a generalist corporate finance player, recent years have delivered far better results. And nowhere is that more in evidence than in its particular take on financial services.

Its importance is reflected in the numbers. Currently the firm has 117 partners across its financial markets practice, 63 of which are in the UK, while 40% (around £150m) of firm-wide revenue comes from finance. Even here the firm has often avoided too much business-as-usual work for banking clients – a certain route to poor margins – to zero in on funds, asset managers and more esoteric areas of regulation.

Legal Business

Simmons gets on the legal technology and data Wavelength with start-up acquisition

Simmons gets on the legal technology and data Wavelength with start-up acquisition

Simmons & Simmons has made a rare acquisition in the form of legal engineering start-up Wavelength for an undisclosed sum.

Wavelength – which claims to be the first Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority-regulated legal engineering business in the world – uses data science, technology and design to assist on projects in the legal industry. The acquisition will see Simmons look to expose the London and Cambridge-based team to its client base.

‘From our perspective, there’s a pressure from clients for law firms to change, and sometimes that can be difficult,’ Simmons managing partner Jeremy Hoyland (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘When thinking about our larger mandates and the work we do for institutional clients, these matters are increasingly challenging from a data and technology perspective.’

Wavelength is led by co-founders Peter Lee and Drew Winlaw, who had been lawyers at Bird & Bird and Taylor Vinters respectively before founding the company in 2016. A 27-strong team is now expected to move into Simmons’ offices in London, while the company’s Cambridge office will become a Simmons outpost for a Wavelength team.

One of the major projects Simmons hopes to deploy the Wavelength team on is the firm’s response to the replacement of The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which acts as a benchmark for financial contracts worldwide worth over $350m.

‘For something like the replacement of LIBOR, if you don’t have a Wavelength-style skillset it would be difficult to have a credible offering,’ Hoyland added. ‘But to be honest, we are finding more opportunities all the time, just earlier I was with our regulatory partners and out of that there was an opportunity to look at deploying Wavelength.’

Lee, meanwhile, believes Simmons is the ideal fit for the company: ‘We always recognised we would have to scale up somehow. We’ve been working with Simmons for a bit over a year now and they have a great international spread and it’s a perfect fit culturally.’

In another significant acquisition, Thomson Reuters snapped up legal software provider HighQ last week as the company looks to make good on plans to bolster its cloud-based software products after selling its managed services arm to EY.

Legal Business

‘Uncertainty is now having an impact’: revenue and profit growth slow at Simmons

‘Uncertainty is now having an impact’: revenue and profit growth slow at Simmons

Simmons & Simmons saw growth slow last year following a ‘much tougher’ second half in the UK, as uncertainty begins to weigh following a strong few years for the firm.

Revenue for the 2018/19 financial year rose 6% to £374m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) increased 4% to £710,000. Net profit growth also slowed, up 9% over the last financial year to £119m, compared to a 19% increase last year.

Though steady, the figures are less impressive than last year when the firm had double-digit revenue growth, up 12% to £354m as PEP rose 8% to £686,000.

‘There’s a good mood, we’ve had good levels of income and profit growth,’ Simmons managing partner Jeremy Hoyland (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘But there’s also caution, the second half of the year was much tougher than the first half, particularly in the UK.’

Despite the relative slowdown, on a three-year basis Simmons has performed strongly, growing revenues by 27% and profit 34%, with the finance and disputes practices the two largest contributors respectively. The firm also minted 15 lawyers to partnership this year, its largest promotion round since 2008, as well as making 16 lateral partner hires, including five in the City. Last week the firm also announced a new office in Shenzhen, China.

Looking ahead, Hoyland warned against complacency, with the firm looking to safeguard against Brexit through expansion on the continent. He commented: ‘Europe had a very good year for us, we’ve been Brexit-proofing on the continent. I’m one of those people that’s always worried about something. I think the uncertainty is now having an impact, particularly on transactional practices, and we’ve had three years on Brexit of not knowing where we stand.’

In other recent financial results, Clifford Chance was the first of the Magic Circle to report, posting a muted 1% rise in PEP and a 4% growth in turnover.

Legal Business

Market Report: Tax Litigation – Out of the shadows

Market Report: Tax Litigation – Out of the shadows

Political pressure to crack down on evasion and Bribery Act-style powers are pushing tax disputes onto boardroom agendas, writes Dominic Carman

Tax investigations and disputes historically rarely made the headlines, except for the occasional world-class footballer or rows over globe-trotting firms slashing their tax bills.

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: The taxman cometh – What GCs need to know

Sponsored briefing: The taxman cometh – What GCs need to know

Nick Skerrett examines the trend of tax dispute management falling to GCs and tax litigators, as HMRC takes a tougher enforcement stance

Tax used to be an area where lawyers feared to tread. That has changed dramatically as the environment for resolution of tax disputes has evolved over recent years. We are seeing a growing trend of the management of tax disputes shifting out of the tax department and onto the desks of general or litigation counsel. In parallel, board-level scrutiny and engagement, and responsibility, have increased. This change to managing tax disputes as an area of legal risk, set against a backdrop of increasing complexity and scrutiny, raises new challenges.

Legal Business

Sponsored firm profile: Simmons & Simmons

Sponsored firm profile: Simmons & Simmons

Engaging Simmons & Simmons tax is different. We have deep strategic expertise and the experience to create a bespoke solution that works for all stages of tax disputes, from the first call from the tax authority through to litigation in the most senior courts.

Simmons & Simmons has one of the strongest contentious tax practices in the market, specialising in complex, high-value tax disputes. We are one of very few law firms to have a truly dedicated contentious tax practice, with partners and associates entirely focused on tax litigation and disputes and the only large law firm genuinely able to blend accountancy, economics and legal expertise on tax disputes. We are proud of our reputation for excellence and are committed to getting results for our clients in their most complex matters.

Legal Business

Simmons looks to the City in increased partner round as Gowling doubles promotions to ten

Simmons looks to the City in increased partner round as Gowling doubles promotions to ten

Top-25 UK firms Simmons & Simmons and Gowling WLG have followed suit on a series of strong partnership promotion rounds, making up 15 and 10 respectively.

Simmons promoted 15 lawyers to partner, eight of which were minted in London. The round is a significant increase on last year, when nine lawyers were promoted across the firm – a decrease from 12 the previous year – with only four promoted in the City.

Of the 15 promoted this year, six are women, seeing the firm make good on its commitment to have at least 30% of all promotion rounds comprised by women.

In London Adam Brown, Chris Owen, Elizabeth Williams and Priya Nagpal were all given the nod to become partners of the firm’s disputes practice, which received the lion’s share of the firm’s promotions with six new partners. Cathryn Bean, meanwhile, was promoted in the firm’s employment practice, while Kathryn James and Alex Ainley were promoted in the London financial markets practice. Jonathan Spencer was made up in the firm’s Bristol disputes practice.

Fourteen of the promotions were across Europe and the Middle East. The sole Asia-Pacific promotion was corporate lawyer Claudia Yiu in Hong Kong.

Gowling, meanwhile, has doubled its UK LLP’s 2018 promotions round to make up 10 partners this year.

In the UK, the firm promoted two partners to the real estate practice, three to its dispute resolution group, two in pensions, and one each in EU, trade and competition and commercial, IT and outsourcing. In France, employment lawyer Gaëlle Le Breton was made partner.

The promotions are up on last year, when five were promoted, and follow four lateral hires across different practice groups over the last year.

Gowling chief executive David Fennell (pictured) commented: ‘Our new partners are all outstanding lawyers and business advisers, with a wealth of expertise in their respective areas, consistently delivering a first class service to our clients. Their diverse skills and experience will enhance Gowling WLG’s support to clients around the world and the continued growth of the firm.’

Simmons & Simmons promotions in full:


Adam Brown – dispute resolution, London

Alex Ainley – financial markets, London

Cathryn Bean – employment, London

Chris Owen – dispute resolution, London

Elizabeth Williams – dispute resolution, London

Kathryn James – financial markets, London

Ed Smith – employment, London

Priya Nagpal – dispute resolution, London

Jonathan Spencer – dispute resolution, Bristol

Christopher Goetz – corporate, Munich

Gijs ter Braak – corporate, Amsterdam

Paul Tjiam – dispute resolution, Amsterdam

Maria Tomillo – financial markets, Madrid

Simone Lucatello – financial markets, Milan

Claudia Yiu – corporate, Hong Kong

Gowling WLG UK LLP’s partner promotions in full:


Daniel Leather – Housing, Development and Regeneration

Toni Weston – Planning

Catherine Naylor – Commercial Litigation

Helen Davenport – Commercial Litigation

Sam Beighton – EU, Trade and Competition

Kieran Laird – Projects

Jocelyn Paulley – Commercial, IT and Outsourcing

Christopher Stiles – Pensions

Joanne Tibbott – Pensions

Gaëlle Le Breton – Employment

Legal Business

The Simmons interview: What to worry about

The Simmons interview: What to worry about

Legal Business: Simmons seems to have come out of a period of malaise. What have been the primary drivers for that growth over the last two years?

Jeremy Hoyland, managing partner: Most of that has been driven by the sectors, so [opening in] Ireland is not because we’re interested in the domestic market. We’re interested because it’s an important market for banks and funds.

Legal Business

Disputes round-up: Simmons wins Petrofac mandate as White & Case makes key regulatory hire

Disputes round-up: Simmons wins Petrofac mandate as White & Case makes key regulatory hire

Simmons & Simmons has landed a major Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation mandate at the expense of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Simmons’ crime, fraud and investigations head Stephen Gentle and partner Nick Benwell have been enlisted to defend oil and gas company Petrofac in the SFO probe, taking on the mandate from Freshfields.

The Magic Circle firm had been appointed to advise Petrofac after the SFO confirmed in May 2017 it was investigating the company due to ‘suspected bribery, corruption and money laundering.’ The probe formed part of a wider investigation into Unaoil, which is accused of the same offences.

In addition to Freshfields, Petrofac called on Ashurst’s veteran dispute partner Edward Sparrow in August 2017 to advise as a ‘senior external specialist’.

Freshfields declined to comment. Simmons was approached for comment.

Meanwhile, White & Case’s London lateral hiring spree has continued with the appointment of financial regulatory partner Jonathan Rogers.

Rogers joins from Taylor Wessing, where he had been a partner since 2008. At his time of leaving, Rogers was head of Taylor Wessing’s financial services regulatory group in London.

Carrying 20 years’ experience advising financial institutions on a full range of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigations, Rogers has a particular focus on asset management, private banks, the payments industry as well as investment and lending platforms.

Eric Leicht, head of White & Case’s global banking practice, commented: ‘Banks continue to demand expert advice on regulatory regimes around the globe. Jonathan is well positioned to step in and assist our large, sophisticated financial institution clients on the most complex regulatory issues they face.’

Rogers’ arrival marks the second major lateral hire White & Case has made this month, following the recruitment of Weil Gotshal & Mages’ well-regarded banking head, Mark Donald.

Other recent laterals at White & Case include high-profile infrastructure partner Simon Caridia from Herbert Smith Freehills in October and in the same month, Weil counsel Thomas Falkus as a partner for its capital markets practice.