Legal Business

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

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.

Legal Business

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.

Legal Business

Further losses at Ince as Singapore head leaves for Stephenson Harwood in double exit

Partners are departing at a rate of knots from Ince & Co ahead of its proposed Gordon Dadds merger, with a pair of veteran Singapore-based partners the latest set to join Stephenson Harwood.

Making the switch is Ince’s managing partner for the Singapore region, John Simpson, and regional finance team head, Martin Brown. Simpson is set to move on 1 May 2019, while Brown will join on 1 November 2018. Stephenson Harwood has taken three partners from Ince this week.

Simpson specialises in shipping, energy and international trade and acts for a wide range of clients, including multinational metals and petroleum companies. His major mandates at Ince include advising energy company GlobalORE on revisions to the Standard Iron Ore Trading Agreement (SIOTA), and representing a Singaporean shipyard on a dispute worth tens of millions of dollars.

Brown’s departure from Ince follows nearly ten years at the firm. His practice involves advising on cross-border ship finance and off-shore maritime transactional matters.

Martin Green, managing partner of Stephenson Harwood’s Singapore office, commented: ‘With the international shipping industry having been in a state of flux for some time, John’s joining the firm will allow us to further support our clients in the region as they face the evolving challenges. In particular, his vast experience advising on arbitration in Singapore, London, Kuala Lumpur and Indonesia will further bolster our offering to clients.’

The hires follow Stephenson Harwood announcing yesterday (15 October) it had hired Ince’s global insurance head Joe O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe had spent over 27 years at Ince, advising insurance on coverage issues, casualties and disputed claims. London partner Kiran Soar has been selected to replace O’Keeffe as global insurance head.

At Ince, the spate of outgoing partners comes amid surprise merger talks with listed firm Gordon Dadds. In September the two firms confirmed they were in discussions to create the UK’s largest listed law firm, with a combined turnover of around £114m.

Rumours had swirled in recent months that Ince was lining up a merger, particularly after revenue fell 6% to £83.4m in the last financial year. Other setbacks included the stepping down of senior partner Jan Heuvels in August, and the February departure of a four-partner team to sector rival Clyde & Co in Hamburg.

In July, Ince made 25 business services staff and seven fee-earners redundant.

Legal Business

Debevoise next up as Tchenguiz drops Stephenson Harwood after €2bn claim fails

Property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz has replaced longstanding legal adviser Stephenson Harwood with Debevoise & Plimpton after his €2bn claim against an Abu Dhabi investment company was thrown out.

A Debevoise team, led by disputes partner Kevin Lloyd, took over future Tchenguiz mandates, including a key Commercial Court case later this year. Tchenguiz had only drafted in Stephenson Harwood in 2014 to replace Shearman & Sterling in his later-settled case against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Legal Business

Tchenguiz swaps Stephenson Harwood for Debevoise after failed €2bn claim

Embattled property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz (pictured) has replaced long-time legal advisers Stephenson Harwood with Debevoise & Plimpton after his €2bn claim against an Abu Dhabi investment company was thrown out.

A Debevoise team led by dispute resolution partner Kevin Lloyd will take over future Tchenguiz mandates, including a key Commercial Court case later this year. Tchenquiz had only drafted in Stephenson Harwood in 2014 to replace Shearman & Sterling in his later-settled case against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The latest switch follows a recent dispute between Tchenguiz’s Luxembourg-based special purpose vehicle Edgeworth Capital and Aabar, an Abu Dhabi investment company. Edgeworth and Aabar had entered into a failed joint venture to buy a €3bn, 400-acre site outside of Madrid, home to the global headquarters of Spanish banking giant Santander.

Aabar attempted to recover around €113m from Edgeworth as a result of the failed investment, but the Tchenguiz-owned company then sued Aabar for €2bn, alleging it was not entitled to make the demand. Justice Popplewell threw out Tchenguiz’s claim last week (29 June), finding ‘it was clear from Mr Tchenguiz’s evidence that he had no genuine recollection of agreeing the terms alleged.’

Notably, Justice Popplewell criticised Tchenguiz’s oral evidence in his judgment, saying: ‘He seemed to take little care in his language or the accuracy of his evidence, often contradicting something he had said previously’. The judge said it could ‘only be categorised as lying.’

Stephenson Harwood had instructed One Essex Court’s Alain Choo Choy QC and Essex Court Chambers’ John Robb to fight the Edgeworth claim. Aabar was represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, who instructed One Essex Court’s Sonia Tolaney QC, James MacDonald and Sophie Weber.

The newly-appointed Debevoise team will have little time to prepare as Tchenguiz gears up for a further three-month Commercial Court trial on 1 October. Tchenguiz is pursuing two Grant Thornton partners and Icelandic lawyer Jóhannes Jóhannsson, alleging they misled the SFO into conducting dawn raids on his and his brother Vincent’s properties in 2012. The Tchenguiz brothers reached a £4.5m out-of-court settlement with the SFO in 2014.

The Grant Thornton partners will be represented by Simmons & Simmons, while Jóhannsson will be advised by Travers Smith.

Stephenson Harwood and Debevoise both declined to comment.

Legal Business

Financials 2017/18: Revenue ticks over for Stephenson Harwood but profits dip again

Stephenson Harwood has recorded a 6% rise in revenues to £189m but suffered a consecutive year of falling profit per equity partner (PEP), down 6% to £664,000.

The results are less polarised than last year, where revenue grew 11% but PEP fell by 9%

Chief executive Sharon White (pictured) described the performance as ‘decent without being standout’, adding: ‘We are pleased that we have continued to grow our revenues. We have had a good run of growth over many years so it’s good to see that continue. Our PEP is down but we were expecting that. We ended up a little ahead of budget actually. It wasn’t a surprise to us or our partners.’

White attributed the declining PEP to both an increase in partnership numbers and long-term investment: ‘It’s about getting a balance between the short-term and what you invest for the future. This year we’ve spent a lot investing for the future’. She added: ‘When I look at the PEP, it will still compare well with peer firms.’

While this year’s results are mixed on a like-for-like basis, Stephenson Harwood has sustained above-trend growth over a five year stretch: In 2012/13 the firm’s turnover was at £112.3m, meaning it has grown by 68% on a five-year view. Over the same period, PEP has grown 47%.

White also said the firm’s corporate, employment and pensions and marine and international trade departments had particularly strong years. Stephenson Harwood won the coveted Corporate Team of the Year accolade at the 2018 Legal Business Awards.

Overall, the result is a positive step towards the firm’s stated ambition to reach a turnover of £200m by the year 2021.

Stephenson Harwood joins Simmons & Simmons and Ashurst in releasing 2017/18 financial results this week. Simmons  recorded a 12% hike in revenues to hit £354m while Ashurst  posted a modest 4% uptick in turnover accompanied by a stronger 11% PEP growth.


Legal Business

The Silk Round: One fine day

Legal Business writes many high-minded pieces focused on the finer analytical points of the legal industry. This is not one of those pieces.

In an intensively people-driven business like the law, there cannot be many more resonant and personal experiences than becoming a Queen’s Counsel (QC). Firstly, there is the trial of the arduous application process and the agonising wait to find if you have secured the favour of peers and the selection panel.

Legal Business

Fieldfisher, Kirkland and Stephenson Harwood the major winners at 2018 Legal Business Awards

Fieldfisher, Kirkland & Ellis and Stephenson Harwood were the big winners at the 2018 Legal Business Awards in front of more than 900 people last night (18 April), as Allen & Overy’s deal star Denise Gibson was recognised as Lawyer of the Year and BT’s Dan Fitz GC of the Year.

Hosted by journalist, writer and television presenter Mariella Frostrup, the ceremony saw Fieldfisher crowned Law Firm of the Year after an impressive 36% revenue growth to £165m in 2016/17 – the largest rise of any law firm in the Legal Business 100 table last year. The firm scooping the most prestigious award of the night underlines the work of managing partner Michael Chissick and senior partner Matthew Lohn in turning around a firm which only in 2012 was near-crisis (as described in our recent cover feature Reversal of Fortunes .

It was a big night for Kirkland too. The world’s highest-grossing firm secured two of the most sought-after awards, Private Equity Team of the Year and US Law Firm of the Year. Matthew Elliott, Neel Sachdev, Steven Lucas, David Holdsworth and Stuart Boyd were joined by recent high-profile lateral hire David Higgins on stage when they picked up their second award.

Stephenson Harwood also picked up two awards on the night – Private Client Team of the Year, and one of the most coveted awards – Corporate Team of the Year – for its role advising Lavendon Group in its takeover by Loxam. A&O’s banking star Denise Gibson, who featured prominently in our cover feature Alphas this year about the leading female deal talent, was crowned Lawyer of the Year.

Meanwhile, Glen Atchison’s decade at the helm of successful West End practice Harbottle & Lewis secured him Management Partner of the Year.

In other practice awards, Norton Rose Fulbright scooped Finance Team of the Year for the pro bono work of the team led by chair-elect Farmida Bi advising the International Committee of the Red Cross on the development of the Humanitarian Impact Bond, a funding mechanism to encourage social investment from the private sector.

On the contentious side, Charles Russell Speechlys was named International Arbitration Team of the Year for Patrick Gearon’s team work in defending a Qatari telecoms provider against a $660m claim brought by a Saudi Arabian multinational. Wedlake Bell won Commercial Litigation Team of the year for advising Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga as he challenged the outcome of the 2017’s presidential election, which brought to Kenya’s Supreme Court annulling the election results.

DLA Piper was named Real Estate Team of the Year for its use of tech in advising Oval Real Estate in its acquisition of the Custard Factory and Fazeley Studios in Birmingham. The team closed the deal just over a month after the terms had been agreed by using automated contract review system Kira.

Two separate awards recognised the growing importance of tech. Legal Innovator of the Year went to F-Lex, a platform that connects firms and in-house lawyers with pre-vetted paralegals. Squire Patton Boggs brought home Legal Technology Team of the Year for developing Global Edge, an app portal providing employment advice across 32 jurisdictions.

In-house lawyers had their chance to shine too. BT’s Dan Fitz was the first winner of the newly-established GC of the Year prize, while Kendra James at the FT won Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year. In-House Team of the Year went to The Carlyle Group. The awards ceremony was preceded by a reception to mark the launch of this year’s GC Powerlist report, featuring the top 50 in-house teams in the country.

Irish leader William Fry scooped International Law Firm of the Year after advising on Linde’s $70bn merger with Praxair, the largest deal in Europe in 2017.

The winners were selected by an external judging panel comprising: Nilema Bhakta-Jones, group legal director of Ascential Group; Kate Cheetham, group general counsel, Lloyds Banking Group; Kirsty Cooper, group general counsel and company secretary, Aviva; Simon Croxford, general counsel – group centre legal, Barclays; Maaike de Bie, general counsel, Royal Mail; Claire Debney, chief of staff and director of legal strategy, Shire; Dan Guildford, general counsel, FT; Rachel Jacobs, group general counsel, Springer Nature; Rosemary Martin, group general counsel and company secretary, Vodafone; Nigel Paterson, general counsel and company secretary, Dixons Carphone; Nayeem Syed, assistant general counsel, Thomson Reuters; Ned Staple, general counsel and company secretary, ZPG; Liz Tanner, director of legal services, SSE; Geoffrey Timms, group general counsel and company secretary, Legal & General; Clare Wardle, general counsel and company secretary, Coca-Cola European Partners. The panel also included Legal Business managing editor Mark McAteer and editor-in-chief Alex Novarese.

Our May edition will include a full report of the night. For more details on the awards, click here .

Legal Business Awards 2018 – The Winners

Hogan Lovells – TMT Team of the Year

Norton Rose Fulbright – Finance Team of the Year

Charles Russell Speechlys – International Arbitration Team of the Year

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang – Restructuring Team of the Year

Wedlake Bell – Commercial Litigation Team of the Year

Stephenson Harwood – Private Client Team of the Year

Eversheds Sutherland – Competition Team of the Year

Pinsent Masons – Energy and Infrastructure Team of the Year

Clifford Chance – Insurance Team of the Year

Stephenson Harwood – Corporate Team of the Year

Kirkland & Ellis – Private Equity Team of the Year

DLA Piper – Real Estate Team of the Year

GQ Employment Law – Boutique Law Firm of the Year

Denise Gibson, Allen & Overy – Lawyer of the Year

Weil, Gotshal & Manges – CSR Programme of the Year

William Fry – International Firm of the Year

Kendra James, Financial Times – Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year

Dan Fitz, BT – GC of the Year

The Carlyle Group – In-House Team of the Year

Glen Atchison, Harbottle Lewis – Management Partner of the Year

Kirkland & Ellis – US Law Firm of the Year

F-Lex – Legal Innovator of the Year

Squire Patton Boggs – Legal Technology Team of the Year

Shoosmiths – National/Regional Law Firm of the Year

Fieldfisher – Law Firm of the Year

Legal Business

Latham and SH cheer as latest silk round bountiful for Red Lion and Garden Court

Arbitrators dominate solicitor appointments amid creation of 119 new silks as Latham does double

Red Lion Chambers and Garden Court Chambers saw six and five of their respective barristers take silk in this year’s QC appointments round, while the number of successful solicitors becoming QCs dipped from last year.