Legal Business

Mounting departures: Trowers loses another partner in the Middle East as CRS hires a new construction chief


Trowers & Hamlins’ former head of Bahrain construction Paula Boast has returned to Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS) as its Middle East head of construction, after spending almost nine years at Trowers’ Bahrain office.

The departure comes after Trowers’ head of UAE Abdullah Mutawi, and fellow partner and international disputes resolution chief Lucas Pitts, exited the firm in March to join Baker Botts’ corporate and disputes practice in Dubai.

Boast left Trowers in February this year having joined in June 2006 as a construction and projects partner. During her tenure at Trowers, she headed the Bahrain construction team and advised on construction and procurement for developers, funders, contractors and consultants. She is also a registered mediator with the Bahrain chamber for dispute resolution. Before Trowers, she was a solicitor at legacy Charles Russell from April 2003 until June 2006.

The hire forms part of CRS’ post-merger growth plan, as the firm expands its construction practice in Bahrain. ‘Construction continues to thrive in the Middle East and we are retained on a number of transformative projects, such as the Bahrain Airport,’ said Patrick Gearon, head of CRS’ Middle East offices. ‘Bringing Paula into our already strong team supports our ongoing growth in the region bringing additional expertise for clients based here and also for those not based in the region, it brings significant additional ‘on the ground’ insight and support in response to their international legal requirements.’

Speechly Bircham and Charles Russell’s respective partnerships voted in July last year in favour of a merger that created a 500-lawyer firm with 170 partners, and combined revenues of £135m. ‘Charles Russell Speechlys is a regional leader in the construction and real estate sector,’ added Boast. ‘This is an exciting time to come back to the newly merged firm and I hope to be able to share my industry knowledge and expertise to build on our considerable success in the region.’

Legal Business

Opening up new markets: Trowers becomes first foreign firm to get licence in Malaysia


Trowers & Hamlins has become the first law firm to secure a Qualified Foreign Law Firm (QFLF) licence in Malaysia as it seeks to capitalise on its Islamic finance offering and target European bound investment.

The licence, which was approved by the Malaysian Bar Council, went into effect on 4 April and will allow Trowers to operate independently in the country and advise clients on international legal issues – subject to certain restrictions.

The new office will see London-based partner Nicholas Edmondes – who specialises in inward investment into the UK and Europe on behalf of overseas clients – relocate to the new base alongside the current head of the firm’s representative regional office in Malaysia, Nick White.

The move comes as the firm boosts its Asia footprint and follows changes to the Legal Profession Act, which in June 2014 opened the country’s doors to allow foreign firms to practise law as a QFLF or international partnership. The QFLF licence will last for three years and is renewable, although law firms with licences or that enter into international partnerships that are licensed are still not permitted to advise on Malaysian Law.

‘The Malaysian Government has made it clear that one of the main reasons for liberalising the legal market was to attract foreign firms and help boost the country’s Islamic finance market,’ said Edmondes. ‘Only firms with strong Islamic finance practices are being considered and it is a testament to the strength of our practice that we have been selected as the first QFLF recipient.’

Prior to obtaining its licence, Trowers operated a non-trading representative regional office in Kuala Lumpur following approval from the Malaysia Investment Development Authority (MIDA). The office launched in July 2012 as the first foreign law firm and the only UK law firm to establish a representative regional office in Malaysia. It applied for the QFLF in February this year.

White, who has been based in Kuala Lumpur since 2012, said: ‘Having a presence on the ground in Malaysia over the last three years has really helped us strengthen and grow client relationships. From Kuala Lumpur we have access to the entire ASEAN region, and now, with a QFLF licence, we will be able to grow additional capacity to further advance our reach and capabilities here.’

Legal Business

Partner promotions: Trowers promotes nine as Debevoise makes up third of six-strong round in the City


Continuing the trend of bumper partner promotions by law firms this year, Trowers & Hamlins has made up more than double the number of lawyers it did in 2014 with nine joining the partnership, while Debevoise & Plimpton, which has missed London out in recent years, made up a third of its round in the City.

Debevoise’ London office was the only outpost outside of New York to benefit from the round, with the promotion of investment management specialist Sally Gibson and litigator Richard Lawton to the firm’s partnership. Gibson primarily advises on regulatory issues facing private equity and fund management though has also been involved in restructuring work while Lawton has experience in a range of disputes matters including corporate litigation and investigations work stemming from corporate collapses and restructurings.

In New York four lawyers made partner, with Scott Selinger and Jennifer Chu both promoted in the corporate department while executive compensation and employee benefits lawyer Meir Katz and Jim Pastore in the cyber security and data privacy practice completed the round. All six will become partners effective on 1 July 2015.

Meanwhile, London was the largest recipient of Trowers’s promotions with two-thirds of those making partner doing so in the City while Manchester, Exeter, and Abu Dhabi were also bolstered by new partners.

Real estate partners Katie Todd and Julian Keith both made the cut in the City and were joined by Youssef Boulos in corporate, public sector commercial specialist Lucy Doran, projects lawyer Stuart Wilson and litigator Theresa Mohammed.

Outside of the city, real estate continued to be the focus with new partners Matthew Holbrook in Manchester and Rachel Carter in Exeter both part of that practice area.

The firm made one international promotion with Johannes Eisser enhancing its corporate practice in Abu Dhabi. Eisser primarily works on M&A, foreign direct investment and joint ventures, and has experience in a range of sectors including telecoms, manufacturing, oil and gas, and retail. Last year, the firm promoted just four lawyers to its partnership with three of those based in the Middle East.

Last month, Pinsent Masons announced a record 29 partner promotions, which took its total partnership to over 400, while Addleshaw Goddard doubled its round to 18.

Legal Business

Significant departures: Trowers loses management duo to Baker Botts in Dubai


Baker Botts has bolstered its corporate and disputes practice in Dubai with the double-hire of Trowers & Hamlins’ head of UAE Abdullah Mutawi, alongside fellow partner and international disputes resolution chief Lucas Pitts.

Mutawi will join the firm as a partner in the corporate group, while Pitts will add to the firm’s international disputes offering, with both being based in Dubai.

Mutawi has been a partner at Trowers for the last decade and became the head of UAE in September 2011. Before this, he was a senior associate at Norton Rose for four years. In his new role at Baker Botts, he will focus on cross-border M&A, capital markets and securities transactions for the telecoms and financial institutions sectors across the Middle East.

Lucas joined Trowers in March 2007 and recently led the litigation for the Bahrain domiciled commercial bank The International Banking Corporation. Lucas has experience of advising on disputes relating to telecommunications, banking, insolvency, aviation and fraud, with experience in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US, Africa and Europe.

Baker Botts managing partner Andrew Baker said: ‘Both Abdullah and Lucas have a deep background and wealth of experience throughout the Middle East and Africa. Their addition will increase our regional and international capabilities in the areas of corporate law and international disputes Resolution.’

Legal Business

Opening up new markets: Trowers applies for foreign firm licence in Malaysia


Trowers & Hamlins has chosen to build on its representative office in Malaysia, following the country’s legal market liberalisation, by applying for a qualified foreign law firm (QFLF) licence.

The move comes as the firm plans to expand its Asia footprint, and follows changes to the Legal Profession Act, which in June 2014 opened the country’s doors to allow foreign firms to practise law as a QFLF or international partnership.

Trowers & Hamlins was the first foreign firm to launch a representative office in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 after it received approval from the Malaysia Investment Development Authority. Jennie Gubbins, senior partner, said: ‘We have submitted an application to be accepted as a QFLF under the recently introduced regime in Malaysia relating to liberalisation of the legal profession. We do not yet know the outcome of our application, so it would be premature to say any more at this stage, other than that we do very much hope that the application will be successful.’

The firm anticipates a status update on the application in March.

According to The Law Society, interest in legal services opportunities between Malaysia and the UK has soared given the recent liberalisation of the Malaysian legal services market. At the time, the Law Society of England and Wales president Andrew Caplen said: ‘With Malaysia opening its legal services market and both countries pledging to double the value of bilateral trade to £8bn by 2016, we also have every reason to talk business.’

At the end of the 2013/14 financial year, Trowers unveiled mixed financials with net profits up almost 15% to £18.1m, while global revenue was down by 1.4% to £77.2m. At the time, the firm blamed its marginal drop in revenue on exchange rate differences, but singled out its real estate practice as the star performer of the year, citing inward investment from the Middle East and Far East as a contributor in its real estate practice generating around 43% of the firm’s overall turnover.

Legal Business

Trainee retention: Nabarro and Fieldfisher maintain high rates while Trowers & Hamlins drops to 64%

Nabarro and Fieldfisher have kept on a high number of trainees this month with the latter firm retaining 100% of its intake, while Trowers & Hamlins posts a lower rate of 64%.

Nabarro’s 100% trainee retention rate earlier this year was not repeated, but the firm has maintained a high standard keeping 81% of total trainees, with offers to 14 from a total of 16 and 13 accepting. Ten of the firm’s trainees were kept on in London with the remaining three in Sheffield.

The firm kept on all eight of its City newly qualified lawyers in January and was preceded by a 94% retention rate last September, when 17 from a total of 18 trainees were kept on.

Similarly, Trowers & Hamlins also follows high expectations, but announced a much lower retention rate today (6 August), keeping on seven out of eleven trainees or 64%. Trowers retained 100% of its trainee intake in March 2014 (a total of six) and in 2013, the firm had an overall trainee retention rate of 95%.

Trowers & Hamlins partner and training principal Tonia Secker said: ‘On behalf of the entire firm, I want to congratulate these excellent trainees. They have all worked very hard over the last two years, and it is a great pleasure to be able to offer them permanent roles. We look forward to continuing to work with them and support them as they establish their careers in the law.’

But while both Nabarro and Trowers hit a 100% trainee retention rate in the spring, Fieldfisher has become the latest law firm to keep on an entire cohort in August, keeping on all eleven newly qualified lawyers – albeit from a reduced intake size.

The firm, which runs an annual cohort, kept on disputes, IP and regulatory lawyers, while retaining three newly qualified lawyers in its finance and technology, outsourcing and privacy practices. However the overall intake is still lower than last year, when the firm retained 12 of 17 newly qualified lawyers, which gave it a 71% retention rate.

Edward Miller, Fieldfisher’s training principal, said: ‘It is fantastic news for our newly-qualified solicitors and for the firm. It is a testament to the high quality of the Fieldfisher trainees and underlines the confidence across the firm’s practice areas for their future growth.’

Legal Business

Financial results 2013/14: Trowers posts mixed results with net profit up 15% but global revenue down 1.4%


UK top-50 firm Trowers & Hamlins has unveiled mixed financials for the 2013/14 financial year, with net profits up almost 15% from £15.8m to £18.1m, while global revenue was down by 1.4% to £77.2m from £78.3m last year.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) at the 313-lawyer firm was up to £320,000 in 2013/14, an increase of 4% compared with the 2012/13 figure of £304,000, which represented a 37% drop on the year before.

Trowers’ highest earning equity member was awarded £454,000, while the lowest took home £182,000.

The firm blamed its marginal drop in revenue on exchange rate differences. In the UK, revenue remained more or less steady at £61.3m compared to £61.5m the previous year.

The real estate practice was singled out as the star performer of the year, with inward investment into the UK from the Middle East and Far East helping real estate to generate 43% of the firm’s overall turnover. Some 30% of the firm’s overall revenue came from its corporate practice, followed by 17% from disputes, 6% from finance and 4% from other areas.

Trowers & Hamlins senior partner Jennie Gubbins said: ‘We are pleased with these results, as boosting profitability has been one of the top priorities for the management team since I took over as senior partner last year.

‘Real estate remains a key area for the firm, alongside our corporate, public sector, finance, litigation and private wealth practices, and we will continue to strengthen these areas in the year ahead.’

The 123-partner firm has four offices across the UK in London, Manchester, Exeter and Birmingham, and four offices across the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, and Oman.

In March 2014, the firm built up its existing Birmingham base with the relocation of three public sector City lawyers in a bid to increase efficiency and cost-effectively service clients directly from its Midlands outpost.

Highlights of the year also include ending 2013/14 with no net debt.

Legal Business

‘We have always been committed to growing our presence there’ – Trowers expands lower cost Birmingham site


Only shortly in the wake of the announcement that Hogan Lovells is to launch a low-cost nearshoring venture in Birmingham, Trowers & Hamlins has said it is to build up its existing Birmingham base with the relocation of three public sector City lawyers.

Partner Amardeep Gill will relocate from the firm’s London office to Birmingham to lead the team, which includes projects and construction partner Andrew Vickery and associate Louis Sebastian, who will all relocate in April, growing the West Midlands team by 23%.

Gill specialises in advising local authorities on major transactions and projects, while Vickery has experience of advising on construction contracts, framework structures, public procurement and asset management contracts.

Trowers & Hamlins senior partner Jennie Gubbins says: ‘Birmingham is an important base for us, and we have always been committed to growing our presence there as the needs of our clients evolve. Much of the firm’s work is spread across national teams located in our network of offices, and these moves will enable us to more efficiently and cost-effectively service clients directly from our Midlands base.’

The top 50 firm launched its Birmingham office in the summer of 2011, adding to its national network of offices in Manchester and Exeter.

The expansion follows the announcement from transatlantic firm Hogan Lovells at the start of March that it is to launch a new legal services centre in Birmingham to undertake low-level legal work as a cost-effective extension of its London office.

The nearshoring venture, called the Legal Service Centre, will be developed over time in response to client demand but it is expected to comprise up to 20 lawyers initially. London partner Alan Greenough will be moving to Birmingham to manage the office, which is expected to be established by autumn this year.

Trowers’ most recent LLP filings showed the firm’s net income fell from £26.2m to £16.1m while operating profit was down from £28.4m to £18.8m in 2013. The firm said the sharp fall in profits was largely due to the cost of moving into its new London headquarters.

Its expansion in Birmingham comes after it scaled back internationally this year, closing its Cairo office in January, citing uncertainty over the long-term outlook for Egypt.

Legal Business

LLP latest: Trowers accounts confirm profits slide as Holman and Stephenson Harwood power on


What finer way to kick off the New Year than a stream of law firm limited liability partnership (LLP) accounts? The latest in a run of recent filings confirm the extent of the fall in profitability at Trowers & Hamlins, while Holman Fenwick Willan and Stephenson Harwood confirm revenue increases.

Trowers’ LLP accounts for 2012/13 show that the firm’s net income fell from £26.2m to £16.1m while operating profit was down from £28.4m to £18.8m. The firm said the sharp fall in profits was largely due to the cost of moving its new London headquarters. Its turnover also decreased by 3.6% to £78.2m in 2013 from £81.2m the previous year.

The firm’s overall staff count grew from 514 to 527 while fee earner headcount remained static with the highest paid equity partner taking home £411,002, down from £496,838 in 2012.

Moreover, the firm took out new loans and finance leases during 2013 totalling £5.8m compared to £785,000 in 2012. The firm’s cash position has weakened against the previous year, moving from a surplus of £8.17m to net debt of £5.19m.

The firm, which has in recent years had to weather a slowdown in its public sector practice and problems in its Middle East network, also today (3 January) confirmed that it was to close its Cairo branch, citing uncertainty in Egypt. Trowers’ Cairo managing partner Sara Hinton along with other fee-earners will join local firm Ibrachy & Partners and operate on a ‘best friends’ basis.

In contrast, at Holman Fenwick revenue grew to £141.4m in the financial year 2012/13, up from £124.2m the previous year, while profits also rose to £47m from £39.7m. The firm has been one of the most financially successful practices in the UK top 50 over the last five years, with revenues rising 82% since 2008.

The firm employed 445 fee-earners on average compared to 436 the previous year, while the overall staff headcount was slightly lower at 771 compared to 780 in 2012. Staff costs increased to £53.4m from £49.3m. The firm’s average number of members grew from 128 to 141.

The LLP’s bank borrowings totalled £16.1m compared to £17.8m the previous financial year.

Meanwhile, Stephenson Harwood’s revenue increased by 3.7% to £113.3m to £109.3m, after announcing a 2% growth in revenue from £110.2m to £112.3m in July. The firm told Legal Business the unaccounted £800,000 was due to subletting income.

The firm’s profit remained static against preliminary estimates at £36.8m. The figures come after the firm transferred to a LLP structure in March 2012.

Member headcount grew from 105 to 112, with the highest paid LLP member receiving £895,000, down from £910,000 in the previous year. Average fee-earner and support staff headcount also increased from 506 to 522 and 173 to 180 respectively with the overall staff increasing from 679 to 702. This led to staff costs rising to £41.4m from £39.6m.

The firm’s pension liabilities also grew firm £39.9m in 2012 to £47.6m while its pension deficit also increased from £4.8m to £6.6m. In addition, the firm has bank loans of £6.2m, which it will pay in 32 quarterly instalments of £200,000 until February 2021.

Legal Business

H1 2013/14: Clyde & Co, Weightmans, Trowers and Gateley reveal figures


As the first of the top 100 firms reveal their 2013/14 half-year (H1) results the early story is positive, with Gateley and Trowers & Hamlins seeing revenue growth of 4%, while Weightmans reports a 7% uplift and Clyde & Co sets a high bar for the top 20 with a turnover increase of 16.5% on figures this time last year.

The top 15 insurance firm confirmed that its H1 turnover for 2013/14 is £169m, which it said in a statement ‘has been achieved through a combination of underlying growth and improvements in our working capital management.’

Senior partner James Burns added: ‘It’s pleasing to see that we’ve maintained the rate of growth that we achieved in the second half of the last financial year, particularly after a tough first half of 2012/3.’

At Weightmans, meanwhile, which reported a H1 revenue of £41m, 7% up on £38.3m at the same point last year, managing partner John Schorah attributed the positive results so far to an around 20% increase in the firm’s corporate practice like-for-like on last year.

Schorah also highlighted a strong performance in the firm’s core insurance team, particularly in its large-loss and disease group, with commercial litigation and family also doing well.

The firm boosted its family capability earlier this year, picking up a legacy Challinors’ family team in Birmingham in August.

Elsewhere at Gateley, where activity levels have reportedly risen over the last two months, the 432-lawyer firm’s 4% rise in turnover is in part explained by a rise in property work, which now accounts for 30% of its total revenue.

Also enjoying a 4% rise in both turnover and profit is Trowers, where senior partner Jennie Gubbins similarly attributes the lift in revenue in part to an uptick in real estate work. ‘It’s an area that we’re putting a real focus on, and when I was appointed senior partner earlier this year we recognized it was a really big area for us and I don’t think the market realized what a big area it is for us, particularly some of the really high-end and interesting deals,’ Gubbins said.

‘Our litigators also had a good first half and our international division is pushing on better after a publicly torrid time last year,’ added Gubbins, after the top 50 firm saw its 2012/13 profit per equity partner drop by 37% to £304,000.