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%.
The entries were reviewed and our panel of general counsel judges delivered their verdicts: we are now delighted to reveal the winner of Legal Technology Team of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.
In this category, we recognise the law firms, in-house teams and chambers, either offshore or onshore, that have pushed through innovation and secured competitive advantage for their business. Important factors are fresh approaches in creating and delivering legal products, including utilising technology and new business models.
Winner – Taylor Wessing
Ask any risk expert at a law firm what the biggest threat to their business is, and data breaches will always feature high on the list. But Taylor Wessing is stiffening the defence against such occurrences, with the firm launching a novel piece of legal tech to help target breaches, making the firm the standout choice for this year’s award.
Many businesses are now subject to cyber attacks, particularly fast-growing companies with less steeled security capabilities. Taylor Wessing’s TW:detect software was developed by its head of cybersecurity, Paul Glass, in collaboration with Pervade Software. The tool scans client websites for points vulnerable to attack and reduces the amount of data theft from businesses.
Taylor Wessing created the software in light of the Magecart attacks, which affected numerous companies in recent years. Magecart-style attacks are a form of data skimming, which collect sensitive information from online payment forms, such as email addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.
Not only did Taylor Wessing identify the problem, but the firm went from concept to launch in under six weeks. Currently the software has two applications, with the first scanning conventional websites, where many Magecart-style attacks happen in real time. The second searches the dark web to identify potential data breaches aimed at stealing personal data, including bank details, as well as scanning websites for indicators of hacking. The TW:detect team are then notified of the results and work with the client to respond to the threat.
‘Taylor Wessing has helped us develop our product by looking at innovative applications for us and new ways it can help their clients,’ says John Davies, director of Pervade Software. ‘Their lawyers are widely known for their expertise in technology and in the sector so, for us, it was a no-brainer that they should be the first law firm that we collaborate with.’
Highly Commended – Kemp Little
Technology-focused boutique Kemp Little narrowly missed out on this year’s award, after the firm developed two in-house technology tools: Dupe Killer and 4Corners.
Dupe Killer is a subscription software product that protects clients’ valuable designs. While software that provides protection against counterfeit products is not new, Dupe Killer can identify products which may only copy one aspect of an original design, and not bear fake trade marks.
4Corners, meanwhile, analyses contracts and gives structured legal advice. It provides instant delivery to difficult legal questions that would otherwise take weeks of work to answer. The software was developed after the firm identified an acute client need during a piece of share sale work. With legal opinions needed on numerous interlinked documents and existing software feeling the strain, Kemp Little responded by creating a subsidiary called KL Technology to invest in the development of new tech, resulting in 4Corners.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Since its launch in 2011, HSF’s Alternative Legal Services team has evolved into a comprehensive client service model through its five eDiscovery hubs and 350 legal and technology specialists across 11 cities. Clients report the service has improved the capacity of their own legal staff to work on other matters, representing important added value.
This insurance-focused firm’s proprietary tech tool, KLAiM, assists insurers and organisations managing insurance claims in-house and has achieved notable success in the UK with clients such as Admiral, AXA and ERS adopting the tech. The firm is also undertaking transfer partnerships with the University of Manchester and UCL to develop next-generation fraud prevention software and an emerging risk analytical tool for insurers, respectively.
Slaughter and May
Through its investment and work with Luminance to its tech incubator programme, FastForward, Slaughters has been an unexpected pioneer of the use of tech in law in recent years. This was underlined in 2019 with the successful launch and execution of the firm’s first client-led legal tech programme, Collaborate.
The firm has, in collaboration with document automation specialists, created Deed Architect – a bespoke tool for use in drafting pension deed documents. Deed Architect transforms the way in which deeds are created, using artificial intelligence to perform the drafting while also bringing a greater certainty of accuracy.
It said in a statement it was ‘pleased to report it has mitigated redundancies by finding affected staff new roles in London, or through redeployment in Liverpool’ which resulted in six of the 34 roles being saved.
Taylor Wessing also reported today that its Liverpool office, opened in November 2018, has since grown from ten to 17 lawyers and more than 60 business services professionals.
The firm plans to further grow the nearshoring base, led by real estate disputes head Saleem Fazal, to over 100 staff by April and has signed a ten-year lease for office space in the Edward Pavilion building in the Royal Albert Dock. Last year the firm said it planned to have 150 staff based there by the end of 2020.
Taylor Wessing managing partner Shane Gleghorn told Legal Business: ‘While there have been redundancies in our London office, we have mitigated the position which has ended up with 28 roles rather than the 34 initially projected. This has been a result of the high degree of professionalism displayed by everybody involved in the consultation process. We are also pleased to be on track to creating 100 new jobs in Liverpool, and there will be more jobs created in the future. This is not least because there are four major Universities in the city, and many of them share our focus on tech and life sciences. There is great talent available to our business.’
Taylor Wessing’s job cuts in the City come despite the firm growing its profit for a number of years. In 2018/19 profit rose 10% to £62.6m as the firm lifted UK turnover 8% to £156.6m. Profit per equity partner grew 13% to £655,230, following a 20% increase the previous year.
Latham & Watkins has become the latest US player to expand its City emerging company capabilities by targeting two mid-market UK firms for a double-partner hire.
Taylor Wessing has seen one of its more senior departures in recent years as its head of technology, media and communications Mike Turner decamped to the US firm alongside Bird & Bird’s corporate partner Shing Lo. Both hires, announced today (29 January), were voted in by Latham’s partnership in early January and will join the firm over the next few weeks.
‘We are the first law firm that has a compelling emerging companies and venture capital practice on the West Coast, East Coast, Europe and Asia,’ Latham’s London corporate co-chair Robbie McLaren told Legal Business. ‘On top of this, we have the ability to do M&A and equity capital transactions in these jurisdictions as well, and that’s what clients are looking for.’
Promoted to the partnership in 2016, McLaren was until this move the only City partner covering the tech space at the firm: ‘When we set out to refine our global strategy in this sector we thought: where are we underweight in this space? The answer was London.’
He added: ‘As a West Coast heritage firm we understand how [the emerging companies practice] works and the opportunities it offers. There is such a great opportunity in this space with the amount of money being raised by private companies that we thought it would make sense to hire two outstanding practitioners.’
He added that when the firm started scouting partners last summer, Turner and Lo were the two names at the top of the list.
Turner had joined Taylor Wessing from fellow UK tech-focused firm Osborne Clarke in 2013 and forged relationships with a number of tech companies both sides of the Atlantic, such as Farfetch.
Indeed, the entrance of a group of US firms into the City tech space brings a new competitive threat to a number of mid-market UK firms that had so far been largely spared by the Americans’ expansion this side of the pond.
Over the last few years US giants have usually targeted the UK Magic Circle, with Latham last year hiring Clifford Chance’s real estate veteran Stephen Curtis and Linklaters’ insurance partner Victoria Sander.
However, McLaren signalled Latham had no immediate appetite for further City laterals in the tech space: ‘With the connections these two hires bring we’ll have greater opportunity to grow. At the moment this will be sufficient and I suspect we’ll be more likely to promote our own lawyers.’
Leading US firms have continued to ramp up lateral recruitment in London as Goodwin Procter hired a private equity partner from Kirkland & Ellis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges added to its restructuring bench.
Goodwin hired Kirkland partner Carl Bradshaw to its private equity group. Bradshaw focuses on cross-border private equity deals and has worked on deals including leveraged buyouts, carve-outs, public-to-privates, consortium deals and co-investments.
Goodwin private equity partner Richard Lever told Legal Business: ‘The profile and industry-focus of [Bradshaw’s] client base is entirely consistent with our aim to be the premium mid-market private equity practice in the City operating with clients at the intersection of capital and innovation. We are seeing particular activity in the life sciences, tech – particularly fintech – and business services sectors.’
Meanwhile, Weil added restructuring partner Neil Devaney to its business finance & restructuring practice from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He has experience in cross-border finance, restructuring and insolvency and advises clients on complex, high-value debt restructurings.
Weil managing partner Mike Francies commented: ‘Neil will work closely with our highly regarded team in London and other senior business finance & restructuring leaders around the world to continue to build out our platform in Europe and globally.’
Elsewhere, Taylor Wessing has hired partner Liz Wilson to its tax and incentives practice in London. She joined from Squire Patton Boggs where she was a director. She has experience working on cross-border tax issues within corporate transactions, private equity, commercial agreements, real estate and construction transactions, projects and debt finance.
Taylor Wessing managing director Shane Gleghorn commented: ‘Liz’s appointment enhances our capability, providing more focus for clients and the taxation issues that need to be considered across all of their deals and investments.’
Ashfords has appointed partner Jocelyn Ormond from Simmons & Simmons to its corporate team in its Bristol office. Ormond has experience in advising private equity, venture capital and other funds, public and private companies on mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, minority investments and equity fundraisings. He will be leading the firm’s focus on healthcare and developing a digital health practice.
Ashfords partner and head of the technology sector and Bristol office Chris Dyson told Legal Business: ‘We see digital health as being an increasingly important focus in the years to come so adding Jocelyn’s specialism to our team puts us in a great position to support this and the wider healthcare market.’
Clyde & Co, meanwhile, hired Janis Meyer, Anthony Davis and Rick Supple from Hinshaw & Culbertson to form part of Clydes’ law firm liability, regulatory and investigations group in New York. Meyer and Davis advise on legal ethics, risk management while Supple is a trial defence lawyer. Clydes launched in New York in 2006 and the latest expansion follows the hiring of a 90-member insurance and litigation team from Sedgwick in December 2017.
Clydes head of the law firm liability, regulatory and investigations group Richard Harrison commented: ‘As law firms have globalised, so too have their legal needs, which is why adding this well respected US team, whom we know well and have worked with for a number of years, is a significant move for us and is part of our strategy of expanding our global advisory and defence capabilities for law firms.’
Finally, Pinsent Masons has hired real estate partner Denis Charles from DLA Piper to its Paris office. The hire follows that of tax and real estate partner Eglantine Lioret and her team who joined the firm’s Paris office in February this year.
Head of real estate at Pinsents, James Crookes, told Legal Business: ‘The appointment of Denis and Elodie is another important step in the growth of our international real estate sector, as we respond to increasing client demand for an integrated, innovative and consistent approach to real estate legal services across a number of key jurisdictions in Europe – one of which is France.’
City lateral recruitment picked up pace again last week as DLA Piper won back a real estate partner from Proskauer Rose, Macfarlanes hired for its financial services team and Dentons strengthened its employment bench.
Joanne Owen rejoined her old firm DLA after a three and a half-year stint in Proskauer’s City corporate team, having previously worked at DLA for nearly 20 years. She advises on institutional and corporate property matters and cross-border corporate real estate transactions. She has acted for leading private equity houses, sovereign wealth funds and private high net worth investors.
The firm has also added partner Katie Jacobson to its real estate practice in Birmingham from Hogan Lovells. Jacobson, who advises institutional investors across the retail, office and industrial sectors, will join DLA at the end of this month.
Elsewhere, Macfarlanes has hired Eversheds Sutherland financial services partner Andrew Henderson, who is set to join his new firm in early 2020.
Senior partner Charles Martin told Legal Business: ‘Andrew is an outstanding fit for us given his focus on investment management clients. He offers particular expertise in retail funds, AIFMD (alternative investment regulation) and international issues, all of which are important to many of our clients.
‘All regulated financial services businesses are dealing with a huge amount of regulatory change and active intervention from regulators. This impacts our clients in the financial services industry. They look to us for joined up advice spanning all the legal aspects of the sector that matter most to them. This almost always includes regulation and quite often means that they look to us to support them when they make important judgement calls in the regulatory field,’ added Martin.
Dentons has added to its UK people, reward and mobility team in London with the hire of employment partner Purvis Ghani from Stephenson Harwood.
Dentons’ head of UK people, reward and mobility practice, Virginia Allen, commented: ‘With [Purvis’] broad range of experience across multiple areas of employment and discrimination law, his expertise will enhance our offering which handles a full suite of UK employment, pensions, employee benefits and immigration matters for our clients worldwide.’
Meanwhile, Norton Rose Fulbright has hired tax partner Florent Trouiller for its Luxembourg office from Dechert. Trouiller has experience in cross boarder private equity and real estate investment and has advised clients on all tax aspects of capital markets and securitisation transactions.
EMEA head of tax at Norton Rose Fulbright, Dominic Stuttaford, commented: ‘In the last few years, Luxembourg’s significance as a jurisdiction for financial institutions has grown, and its tax regime has become more complex. Therefore, a strong tax capability in Luxembourg underpins our pan-European and international tax offering.’
The Luxembourg office opened in June 2017 with three partners and is now operating with more than 18 fee earners across various practice areas.
Finally, Taylor Wessing has hired back its former Dubai head of corporate and co-managing partner Osama Hassan after an eight-year stint at Pinsent Masons. He joins as the firm’s Dubai managing partner and was previously head of the Middle East group and the corporate practice at Pinsent Masons.
Managing partner Shane Gleghorn commented: ‘Osama is widely recognised in the UAE market. We have a long-established platform in Dubai and our international client base has evolved significantly in TMC and private wealth. These are areas that we are known for being strong in and Osama’s experience across family owned businesses and technology in the region are hard to compete with.’
In an otherwise sedate week for City legal recruitment, DAC Beachcroft has proved the exception to the rule for August hiring, adding a seven-strong insurance team from Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) in London.
The team joining DAC was led by insurance litigation partner Kirsty Hick who joined on 1 August and acts for global and London market insurers. She has experience advising on complex coverage and defense issues as well as warranty and indemnity claims. The firm has been trying to grow its high-end international insurance business for the last few years with the London hires being a significant boon to that strategy.
The move follows the hire in May of Liam O’Connell, who was previously head of NRF’s EMEA insurance claims team.
Legal Business: ‘It’s a reflection of how far we have come as a firm, that we can attract the quality of Kirsty and Liam from a firm like Norton Rose to our firm. We can provide them with a very strong platform from which they can further develop their practice.’
‘There’s only three law firms that can genuinely say they offer a full-service to insurance clients and that’s ourselves, Clyde & Co and Kennedys. The market is consolidated around those three firms and as a result some of the other firms are beginning to lose some of their insurance practices’, Pollitt added.
Legal directors Rebecca Bailey and Sarah O’Connell and senior associates Jack Holling, Natasha Marshall and Cathryn Teverson will join Hick at the firm in September.
Elsewhere, Taylor Wessing has hired Alison Dennis from Fieldfisher to co-head its life sciences and healthcare group.
Dennis is experienced in life sciences regulatory and transactional work, and acts for medical device, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The hire of Dennis is intended to fill the whole left by the firm’s previous head of life sciences, Malcolm Bates, who will be leaving the firm for Goodwin Procter. Both Dennis and Bates are currently carrying out their notice periods.
Meanwhile, newly formed London firm Avonhurst has added two ex-magic circle lawyers to its team. Ian Frost joins from Vinson & Elkins but spent over 20 years at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer working on leveraged finance transactions. James Wyatt joins from Linklaters where he was a senior lawyer in global project finance matters, energy and infrastructure sector finance and infrastructure acquisition finance. The firm was formed last month by Jonathan Bloom, previously a capital markets and funds partner at Jones Day. The firm is focused on offering services around legal, legislative and political risk alongside capital markets advice.
Eversheds Sutherland meanwhile hired partners Werner Brickwedde and Simon Weppner in Dusseldorf. Brickwedde joins the corporate team from Clifford Chance and has experience in cross-border transactions while Weppner joins the tax team from Taylor Wessing. He is focused on the tax structure of company acquisitions and investments.
Alexander Niethammer, head of the commercial practice group commented: ‘We can strengthen our position in providing cross-border transaction and tax advice from one of the most important German locations for foreign direct investments.’
Finally, TLT has expanded its real estate capabilities with the hire of Claire Hamilton from JMW in Manchester. Hamilton has experience in property investment, development and finance and also in-house experience from time spent at MCR Property Group.
Profits at the 366-lawyer business rose 10% to £62.6m off the back of what Gleghorn described as a surge in corporate technology deals, particularly around digital platforms. PEP at the 96-strong UK partnership grew 13% to £655,230, following a 20% increase the previous year: one of the strongest performances in the UK top-25. The results give the firm some momentum after two years of slower revenue growth and a 6% drop in PEP in 2016/17.
Meanwhile, Taylor Wessing’s global verein, which includes 1,150 lawyers and 344 partners in 18 countries, hiked turnover 13% to £339.7m, after breaking the £300m barrier last year.
Gleghorn told Legal Business: ‘We have had a strong performance in all our sectors and practice areas, but there have been some standouts: corporate technology has had a very strong year, and patents had an extraordinarily successful year, with some ground-breaking litigation. Our private wealth and real estate teams had a very strong year as well in a context where a lot of people predicted that the real estate market would be very difficult.’
Recent mandates included the sale of 80% of cryptocurrency exchange platform Bitstamp to Brussels-based investment firm NXMH, the £178m acquisition of Audio Network by Entertainment One UK, and the £85m funding of digital bank Monzo from General Catalyst and Accel.
In a bid to increase profitability, Taylor Wessing launched a low-cost centre in Liverpool in the autumn which it plans to staff with 150 people by the end of 2020, including business services roles, paralegals and lawyers.
In a boost to its tech credentials, the firm entered an alliance with Silicon Valley leader Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in February, which will see the two firms co-operate on transactional work in tech and life sciences.
Gleghorn added: ‘We have seen a very successful drive of revenue from the US, both through Wilson Sonsini but also our Palo Alto office.’
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.
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