Legal Business

Comment: A personality crisis and the great WFH salary cut brouhaha

Comment: A personality crisis and the great WFH salary cut brouhaha

Hasn’t what I’m snappily calling ‘Stephenson Harwood WFH pay cut-gate’ caused a furore?

In case you’ve missed it, the RollOnFriday report that the City firm is offering staff the option to work from home full time – but with a 20% salary reduction – has sparked righteous indignation, the level  of which has not been seen since… forever.

For the record, fair play to the management of Stephenson Harwood for having the guts to make a decision on the thorny issue of post-lockdown working, albeit that it has opened the door to much derision.

Getting people comfortable with going back to the office was always going to be a political minefield. On a recent visit to one City firm, the party line being spun was that everyone has embraced office life again with open arms. This message was not borne out by the pin I heard drop in reception, followed by the tumbleweed I saw wheel by the meeting room.

I am especially alive to the benefits of working from home after a recent train journey featuring a fellow passenger clipping her fingernails in the seat behind me. The public transport that most of us rely on is jam-packed with people we’ve managed to avoid for two years. People can be awful.

But then again, I thought I heard it said that law is a people business? We are already facing a personality crisis in the industry more generally. Law firm ‘characters’ – the bon viveurs, the raconteurs – are already in short supply these days and have been since the tacit decision was taken to professionalise and turn firms into businesses. I’m not saying we go back to the days of non-stop boozy lunches and parties – and with it some unacceptable behaviour at times – but there was a lot to be said for the normal human connections forged in less formal surroundings in the past.

Lockdown has created a workforce ill equipped to tolerate other people’s foibles as they were once obliged to do and worse – exacerbated a diminishing of social skills and reluctance to engage beyond absolutely necessary communication. The technical training conundrum and the career progression dilemma are well-worn arguments but no one really talks about the far greater threat to personality development.

Anyone would think from the severity of the backlash that Stephenson Harwood had delivered an ultimatum – either work full time in the office or at home. That doesn’t appear to be the case, since full salaries will still be taken home by those working three days a week in the office.

Everyone knows that staff are as productive, if not more so, at home – wherever home happens to be. There’s always been a London weighting on salaries for the simple fact it costs more to live here, not to mention the added anxiety of a Dante-esque commute. Not to sound like a snowflake-basher, but is this petulance over making any compromise whatsoever in the pursuit of an extremely lucrative career not the last word in selfish entitlement? One might also question the stance taken by the anti-pay cut camp that their whole career raison d’etre seems only to be racking up as many billable hours without leaving the house. Sartre famously said that hell is other people and he wasn’t wrong.

nathalie.tidman@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Disputes perspectives: Sue Millar

Disputes perspectives: Sue Millar

I was always naturally argumentative. But I didn’t have any role model at all, nobody that I knew was involved in law.

I was either going to be a journalist or a lawyer. What swayed me? I grew up in the 1980s and you start to get politically awakened in your teens. This was at a time when Margaret Thatcher was in government and everything was extremely political. I realised that I would probably have to write in accordance with the political wishes of the editor and I didn’t think I could do that.

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: The Quincecare duty: when shouldn’t you follow instructions?

Sponsored briefing: The Quincecare duty: when shouldn’t you follow instructions?

Stephenson Harwood considers the current scope of the Quincecare duty and some of the practical issues of which banks need to be aware following the latest judgment from the Court of Appeal

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood re-elects Foord for fourth senior partner term

Stephenson Harwood re-elects Foord for fourth senior partner term

Roland Foord’s long-standing tenure as senior partner of Stephenson Harwood has been extended with his election to a fourth two-year term, starting 1 May 2022.

Foord’s re-election will push his leadership stint to well over a decade, having initially been appointed senior partner after he stood uncontested in 2012. A firm stalwart, Foord joined Stephenson Harwood’s litigation team in 1985 before being made up to partner in 1989. At the time of his first election, Foord also led the firm’s professional services and art law teams.

Chief executive Eifon Morris, who succeeded veteran leader Sharon White in 2019, commented: ‘Roland’s experience during a decade in which the firm grew significantly, will be an important attribute as we look to realise our ambitious plans for the next five years. His commitment to the firm – and the regard in which he’s held by everyone at Stephenson Harwood – is reflected by his re-election.’

Following a stall in revenue growth in 2019/20, revenue dropped 2% in 2020/21. Since then, the firm has bolstered its London practice, most recently this month (February 2022) with the additions of commodities trade finance specialist Philip Prowse from HFW and commercial technology partner Simon Bollans who, having trained at the firm, rejoined from Osborne Clarke.

megan.mayers@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘An element of the exceptional’: Simmons latest to post striking pandemic financials with double-digit revenue growth and soaring profits

‘An element of the exceptional’: Simmons latest to post striking pandemic financials with double-digit revenue growth and soaring profits

Simmons & Simmons managing partner Jeremy Hoyland said there was ‘an element of the exceptional’ in the firm’s financial results announced today (16 July), with revenue growing 12% to £437m and profits shooting up 35% to £171m.

There was also a steep increase in profit per equity partner, growing 30% to reach £980k. Overall, this year’s results far outstrip the unremarkable 4% revenue growth and 6% profit increase from last year , as Hoyland explained that the firm benefited from a significant boom in instructions due to the pandemic.

He insisted that the revenue came purely from client work, with costs actually up on the previous year. This was thanks to increased salaries and growing headcount, despite savings on travel and entertainment due to enforced home working. Hoyland (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We advised clients pro-actively, but they also came to us for solutions and significant mandates at a time of crisis. All of our offices grew in revenue, with the UK having a particularly strong year.’

He accepted that the firm ‘would not grow by 12% again’ next year, recognising the one-off nature of the current results: ‘One of the benefits of being a lawyer is that people come to you in the bad times as well as the good – it has always had that countercyclical nature. There’s an element of the exceptional in the results, but if you look back at our last four or five years of results there is something of a trajectory.’

There was a significant increase of work in the firm’s ESG, asset management and TMT practices in the past year. But there was also considerable growth from Simmons’ flexible resourcing platform, Adaptive, which increased income by 30% during the year. Hoyland added: ‘It’s partner-led, in a way some competitors aren’t. We will certainly be looking to internationalise the business soon.’

Other highlights include the firm making 23 lateral partner appointments, and promoting 13 lawyers to the partnership. Six of the newly-promoted partners were women, exceeding the firm’s target of 40% female partner promotions per year.

In other results announced this week, there were mixed fortunes at Stephenson Harwood as the firm unveiled a 2% slump in revenue, slipping from £213m to £209m. However chief executive Eifion Morris was optimistic, reporting that the firm had actually finished 8% higher than budgeted, and profitability increased 13%.

However Taylor Wessing joined Simmons and Herbert Smith Freehills  in posting impressive figures this week, announcing a 12% uptick in UK revenue to £175.5m and a 23% increase in UK profits to £71m.

Tom.baker@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Lawyer of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Lawyer of the Year

After reviewing the evidence for dozens of candidates, we are delighted to reveal our Lawyer of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

This award acknowledges a truly exceptional individual contribution to the profession during 2019 by private practitioners, in-house counsel and barristers. Judges were looking for evidence of exceptional performance in any area that makes the chosen lawyer stand out from their peers.


 

 


Sponsored by

Signium

Winner – James Libson, Mishcon de Reya

While managing partner James Libson has played a central role in the dynamic growth of Mishcon de Reya over the last 20 years, his recent work in using the law to counter discrimination in the Labour Party and his role in the Miller prorogation case gave him the edge in this category.

2019 saw him defend high-profile politicians, including Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger who were the victims of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, as well as representing the Jewish Labour Movement in its referral of the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – a strategy Libson conceived and executed.

Libson has acted for whistleblowers in the health, financial services and political sectors since the legislation was introduced in 1998 and also defended several of the whistleblowers under attack from the Labour Party.

He also led the solicitor team that represented Gina Miller in her case against of the government’s decision to trigger Article 50 without a vote of parliament and more recently was instructed by Miller again in relation to the proroguing of parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to bypass a vote in parliament to achieve a no-deal Brexit.

In this second historic victory, the Supreme Court held: ‘The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.’

Mishcon said Libson’s work was characterised by acting almost always on behalf of clients at the epicentre of hostile, extreme (and often violent in its discourse) attention. Outside the law, Libson is noted for being extremely active in the charity sector, in particular in causes addressing the needs of refugees.

Highly Commended – Tammy Samuel, Stephenson Harwood

Head of the rail sector group and recently promoted to global head of Stephenson Harwood’s finance practice, Samuel combines a market-leading practice for clients such as TfL and the Department of Transport with her role as mentor and spokesperson for gender and sexual orientation diversity within the profession.

As well as balancing her impressive career, Samuel has four children, is an ex-England and Saracens rugby player and coaches and sponsors a girls’ rugby team. Her contribution to promoting women in rail and law, as well as her commitment to wider diversity, is outstanding.

Samuel regularly represents Stephenson Harwood at Aspiring Solicitors events that seek to improve access to the profession and in March 2019 she helped launch the firm’s LGBT+ network by interviewing rugby player and activist Gareth Thomas at a launch event.

Recent mandates include advising TfL on Crossrail and the Department of Transport on a variety of matters. She has also given evidence to the UK House of Commons Transport Select Committee as part of its inquiry into rail infrastructure investment.

Other nominations

Emilie Cole, Irwin Mitchell

Cole represented district judge Claire Gilham in a landmark victory in the Supreme Court, convincing the court that she should be granted the same legal protections as other whistleblowers under her European human rights and securing protection for all UK statutory office holders.

Andrew Lidbetter, Herbert Smith Freehills

Leading HSF’s London public law practice, Lidbetter had an outstanding 2019 during which he handled judicial review, public inquiry and other regulatory work across a range of commercial sectors and pro bono for NGOs. This has resulted in him having three successful judgments intervening for clients at Supreme Court level, including in the parliament prorogation case in September.

Joanne Wicks QC, Wilberforce Chambers

A leading light at the property Bar, in the past 12 months Wicks QC has appeared in the Supreme Court twice (in S Franses v The Cavendish Hotel and Dr Julia Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent) and the Court of Appeal (in Churston Golf Club v Haddock). Furthermore, she appeared in Canary Wharf v European Medicines Agency, one of the most high-profile property cases of 2019.

Legal Business

Revenue growth stalls at Stephenson Harwood as firm remains quiet on profits

Revenue growth stalls at Stephenson Harwood as firm remains quiet on profits

Stephenson Harwood saw revenue growth grind to a halt over the last financial year, the firm’s latest financial results show, while key profit figures are undisclosed.

Revenues remained at £213m over 2019/20, the figure hit last year after a pacey 12% growth. Meanwhile, the firm did not disclose its profit per equity partner figure, which rose 9% to £727,000 last year after two consecutive years of decline. The firm’s net profit figure – which last year stood at £68.2m – was also witheld.  The firm chose not to provide comment or a statement on its muted financial performance.

Litigation and arbitration produced the lion’s share of the turnover, contributing 43% of the figure after a modest rise. Corporate and finance followed, producing 26% and 23% of revenue respectively.

It has been a period of change for Stephenson Harwood, with longstanding chief executive Sharon White giving way to new leader Eifion Morris (pictured), who took the helm last October. Morris takes over an institution much changed from Stephenson Harwood circa 2009. Over the last decade, revenues have grown 150% and the partnership has doubled to approximately 171.

Part of that story has been the expansion of the firm’s corporate practice, which has increased its headcount by more than a third over the five years to 2018/19, while revenue has more than doubled in the same period. However, the firm has been less aggressive than some of its peers in pursuing profitability.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on Stephenson Harwood, read ‘Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?’ 

Legal Business

Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?

Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?

With longstanding chief executive Sharon White bowing out, Stephenson Harwood can look back on a strong ten years. Thomas Alan assesses its record and prospects

‘My understanding is the Stephenson Harwood of 2002 needed a new strategy because it was doing very badly,’ reflects corporate head Andrew Edge, looking back on the City thoroughbred’s much-publicised problems. ‘It was losing people and the finances were extremely precarious.’

Legal Business

Return to growth for Stephenson Harwood as PEP rises 9% and revenue tops £213m

Return to growth for Stephenson Harwood as PEP rises 9% and revenue tops £213m

Stephenson Harwood’s profit per equity partner (PEP) bounced back from two consecutive years of decline, rising 9% to reach £727,000 as the firm’s top line grew 12% to hit the £213m mark.

The results will come as a welcome improvement on last year’s performance, which saw steady revenue growth of 6% to £189m offset by a disappointing 6% drop in PEP to £664,000.

Sharon White (pictured), chief executive of Stephenson Harwood, told Legal Business: ‘Though PEP dipped for two years, even with that decline it compared favourably with our peer firms. It’s great to see it going up, and that’s because we’ve had a strong year of revenue growth and have come out significantly ahead of budget.’

The results are better still than the firm’s polarized 2017 performance, when revenue grew 11% but PEP tumbled 9%. They also mean Stephenson Harwood has more than doubled its revenue over a ten-year period, while partner headcount has risen from 90 to over 180 since 2008.

The firm, which is looking to see partner headcount hit 200 by 2021, enjoyed its largest partner promotion round in April, with 13 lawyers minted globally, of which eight were in the City. It also made 11 lateral hires over the last financial year.

Despite the robust year, White strikes a cautious note looking forward: ‘There are still concerns around the impact of Brexit but also trade wars between the US and China. We’re more cautious about the year ahead.’

White is set to be replaced on 1 October as chief executive of Stephenson Harwood by the firm’s co-head of intellectual property Eifion Morris. She has been CEO since 2009, leading the firm for over a decade after having her term extended by another two years in March 2017.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood IP co-head replaces CEO Sharon White following decade in charge

Stephenson Harwood IP co-head replaces CEO Sharon White following decade in charge

Stephenson Harwood partner Eifion Morris (pictured) has been appointed the firm’s new chief executive (CEO), replacing long-standing incumbent Sharon White.

White has been CEO at the firm since 2009, leading Stephenson Harwood for more than a decade after her term was extended by another two years in March 2017. The London-based Morris currently co-leads the firm’s intellectual property group and has been at the firm since 2008. He takes charge as of 1 October.

Stephenson Harwood senior partner, Roland Foord, commented: ‘Stephenson Harwood is a long-standing and successful firm, and I know that Eifion shares the firm’s values and culture, and has the energy and leadership skills to continue to build our business and ensure its success long into the future.’

Morris commented: ‘To have the opportunity to lead Stephenson Harwood is a great privilege and honour. The strength and success of Stephenson Harwood is testament to the firm’s culture, the quality of our lawyers, and their commitment to understanding and supporting our clients in achieving their ambitions.’

White is a lifer at Stephenson Harwood, having first joined the firm in 1988 as an associate in the corporate practice. White also served as head of corporate between 2007 and 2013.

Morris will take the helm during a period of indifferent financial performance at the firm, with revenue rises not matched by increases to profit per equity partner (PEP). The firm’s last financial results showed a 6% lift in turnover to £189m, however PEP shrunk 6% to £664,000. In the previous year revenue was up 11% but PEP fell by 9%.

Meanwhile, last October the firm hired veteran Singapore-based duo John Simpson and Martin Brown from the struggling Ince & Co. Brown took up his position in November of last year, while, Simpson is set to start 1 May.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk