Legal Business

Financials 2017: Weightmans posts stable turnover with 21% profit increase to £11m

Financials 2017: Weightmans posts stable turnover with 21% profit increase to £11m

Top 50 national firm Weightmans has today (6 July) posted a flat turnover of £95m, while profit is up 21% to £11m in what was a year ‘of great change and growth for the business.’

Over the last year Weightmans has ‘continued to invest in its systems and people, whilst operating within a persistently challenging legal services environment,’ according to a statement. Additionally, in this time the firm has undertaken a strategic review and outlined a new five-year strategy.

Growth over the last financial year was highlighted across litigation, corporate, real estate, regulatory, disease, speciality insurance, healthcare and local government/police.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) increased 28% to £295,000 in a strong turnaround for the firm after PEP fell dramatically last year by 19% to £231,000.

Weightmans managing partner John Schorah said the result was good in a year which was ‘both challenging and rewarding.’

‘As is expected from the changing legal environment, we continue to see some reduction in revenue from a proportion of our volume defendant claims areas. At the same time however we are seeing some fantastic growth in a number of areas including in Claims as we continue to develop the business to suit these changing client requirements.’

Weightmans opened a new office in London this year. This followed the firm’s combination with local Leeds firm Ford & Warren in 2015, to create a firm with revenues of around £100m and headcount of over 1,400. The merger provided Weightmans with a new Leeds base, giving the firm a presence in nine UK locations, with two offices apiece in London and Manchester.

This January, Legal Business revealed that Weightmans was in merger talks with Newcastle-based Ward Hadaway to create a £130.8m national firm. However, the talks were called off in April after ‘both firms reached a consensus their respective strategic priorities were not sufficiently aligned to invest in such a significant merger.’

Had those talks been successful, the merger would have created a national firm with offices in Newcastle, Birmingham, Dartford, Glasgow, Knutsford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Both firms have a Leeds and Manchester presence, but any merger would have provided Weightmans with a strong foothold in the North East.

Management at Weightmans, whose practice centres on defendant personal injury claims as well as general litigation transaction and advisory work, said it aimed to consolidate its regional bases into cost-efficient single offices, consolidating the London office this year, and the Manchester office in 2018.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

Weightmans triples promotions as Kingsley Napley’s round makes women majority of partnership

Weightmans triples promotions as Kingsley Napley’s round makes women majority of partnership

National law firm Weightmans has tripled its fixed share member promotions since last year, while Kingsley Napley has also announced its promotions, with women now making up half of the firm’s 52 partners.

In this year’s round, Weightmans has promoted nine associates, an increase on last year’s number of three. All of the new Weightmans partners will assume their roles on 1 May 2017, with appointments being made in a host of practice areas.

Deborah Edwards, Keith Jones and Alex Marler have all been made up in insurance, while Nilesh Bathia, James Hough, Simon Turner and Hannah Walsh have been promoted in public bodies. Dewi Ap Thomas is the sole regulatory appointment, with James Knowles the only private client promotion.

Weightmans managing partner John Schorah (pictured) commented: ‘It is always a great privilege to recognise the contribution, dedication and talent of our people. Our new partners possess strong leadership skills and unwavering commitments to clients, and these promotions are very well deserved.

Kingsley Napley’s promotion number has seen less of a jump, rising from two last year to three this time around. As a result of this year’s promotions, women now make up 52% of the firm’s partnership.

Two of the new partners have been made up in the firm’s criminal litigation team, namely Rebecca Niblock and Johanna Walsh. Niblock is a specialist white collar and extradition lawyer, acting on criminal matters such as serious fraud, money laundering and corruption. Walsh, who joined Kingsley Napley from DLA Piper in 2014, is also a fraud specialist.

Brandusa Tataru-Marinescu has been promoted to partner in the firm’s real estate team. Tataru-Marinescu joined from Taylor Wessing in 2015, and has expertise in non-contentious construction work.

Kingsley Napley managing partner Linda Woolley commented: ‘Our three new partners are thoroughly deserving of their success. Each has grown in stature and experience in their roles and respective practice areas and are highly regarded by peers and the firm’s clients. Their promotions continue to strengthen the firm’s record for recognising talented women in the law.’

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Kingsley Napley partner promotions in full:

Brandusa Tataru-Marinescu, real estate, London

Rebecca Niblock, criminal litigation, London

Johanna Walsh, criminal litigation, London

Weightmans partner promotions in full:

Dewi Ap Thomas, regulatory, Liverpool

Nilesh Bathia, public bodies, London

Deborah Edwards, insurance, Leicester

James Hough, public bodies, Liverpool

Keith Jones, insurance, Liverpool

James Knowles, private client, Liverpool

Alex Marler, insurance, Liverpool

Simon Turner, public bodies, London

Hannah Walsh, public bodies, London

Legal Business

Weightmans and Ward Hadaway ‘mutually withdraw’ from merger discussions

Weightmans and Ward Hadaway ‘mutually withdraw’ from merger discussions

Weightmans and Newcastle-based Ward Hadaway have ended merger discussions which would have created a £130.8m national firm after ‘both firms reached a consensus their respective strategic priorities were not sufficiently aligned to invest in such a significant merger.’

In a statement, Weightmans managing partner John Schorah said that following discussions it became clear that both firms wanted different things from their respective futures.

Schorah (pictured) added: ‘Weightmans’ new structure will be in place on 1 May as part of a comprehensive strategic review. We will continue to focus on growing a balanced practice of defendant insurance work as well as litigation, transaction and advisory services to our clients, whilst further developing our innovative technology to meet changing client needs.’

Ward Hadaway’s managing partner Jamie Martin said: ‘We have enjoyed talking to John Schorah and his team and getting to know the people at Weightmans a bit better and we wish them well for the future.

‘Nevertheless, we wish to continue to pursue our strategy of developing a ‘Northern Law Firm for National Business’ across our three offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester and our focus on providing legal services to Northern-based businesses.’

Legal Business first revealed details of the merger discussions in January. Both firms were understood to have been in talks since early 2016.

If the talks had been successful, they would have created a national firm with offices in Newcastle, Birmingham, Dartford, Glasgow, Knutsford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Both firms have a presence in Leeds and Manchester but any merger would have provided Weightmans with a strong foothold in the North East.

Although Weightmans is substantially larger than Ward Hadaway with turnover of £95m for 2015/16 compared to Ward Hadaway’s £35.8m, profit per equity partner (PEP) at the Newcastle firm soared 49% in the last financial year to £336,000, while in contrast PEP at Weightmans fell 19% to £231,000.

Weightmans is no stranger to mergers, combining with local Leeds firm Ford & Warren in 2015 to create a firm with revenues of around £100m and headcount of over 1,400. The merger provided Weightmans with a new base in Leeds, giving the firm a presence in nine UK locations, with two offices apiece in London and Manchester. Management at Weightmans, whose practice centres on defending medical and clinical negligence claims, are aiming to consolidate these into cost-efficient single offices with the London office consolidated into one office this year, and Manchester in 2018.

Meanwhile Ward Hadaway employs more than 450 staff, with 80 partners across three offices.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘The way forward’: Weightmans latest LB100 firm to establish global insurance alliance

‘The way forward’: Weightmans latest LB100 firm to establish global insurance alliance

Following DAC Beachcroft‘s decision to establish a four-firm international network earlier this year, Weightmans is collaborating with firms from the UK, Spain, Canada and the USA to provide a global insurance service to clients.

The new network, called the Insurance Law Global (ILG) network, comprises Weightmans, Canadian firm Blaney McMurtry, Spain’s LC Rodrigo Abogados and American outfit Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. ILG will operate on a non-exclusive basis, with the firms involved expressing in a joint statement the need to combat challenges presented by globalisation and the ever-changing political landscape.

Weightmans senior partner Dan Cutts was the key orchestrator of the collaboration, which was announced at a conference in London in late March. Thanks to the tie-up, ILG will have bases in 30 cities, spanning six countries.

Cutts commented: ‘The legal services market – and the way in which our clients need us to work – is changing. By bringing together law firms with exceptional pedigree and experience in the global insurance market, we are formalising a collaborative approach to respond to the challenge.’

Weightmans director of insurance Kieran Jones told Legal Business: ‘To help our clients we took the view that entering a network of like-minded firms, all best in class in their countries with local knowledge, would be the way forward.’

Jones (pictured) added: ‘Our clients are trading in a global market. But politically, you’ve got borders and boundaries going up. The insurance market still wishes to trade globally.’

ILG bears significant resemblance to an insurance alliance that DAC Beachcroft signed up to at the beginning of the year. The network, called Legalign, comprises German firm BLD Bach Langheid Dallmayr, US firm Wilson Elser and Australian outfit Wotton + Kearney. The tie-up will bring together more than 2,000 lawyers across the four firms and will provide legal services in insurance/reinsurance coverage, insurance/reinsurance defence and insurance regulatory and compliance.

Weightmans is still in talks with Newcastle-based firm Ward Hadaway over a merger that has been mooted for over a year. If the firms were to combine, it would create a £130.8m national firm with offices in Newcastle, Birmingham, Dartford, Glasgow, Knutsford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Shared strategic objectives’: Weightmans in merger talks with Newcastle’s Ward Hadaway

‘Shared strategic objectives’: Weightmans in merger talks with Newcastle’s Ward Hadaway

National firm Weightmans is in merger talks with Newcastle-based Ward Hadaway, Legal Business can reveal, with both firms understood to have been in talks for the past year.

Were the two firms to combine, it would create a £130.8m national firm with offices in Newcastle, Birmingham, Dartford, Glasgow, Knutsford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Both firms have a presence in Leeds and Manchester but any merger would provide Weightmans with a strong foothold in the North East.

Although Weightmans is substantially larger than Ward Hadaway with turnover of £95m for 2015/16 compared to Ward Hadaway’s £35.8m, profit per equity partner (PEP) at the Newcastle firm soared 49% in the last financial year to £336,000, while in contrast PEP at Weightmans fell 19% to £231,000.

In a statement, John Schorah, manging partner of Weightmans said: ‘The legal market is changing and it is always sensible to look at opportunities that might benefit a business, its clients and its staff so Weightmans and Ward Hadaway are currently talking to each other to see if there are benefits of working closer together. We have shared strategic objectives and a significant number of shared clients. Whether or not these discussions will lead to anything permanent is, at the moment, unknown but we are enjoying getting to know each other better, sharing ideas and the discussions will be a benefit to our businesses, our clients and our staff even if nothing permanent comes of the discussion.’

Weightmans is no stranger to mergers, combining with local Leeds firm Ford & Warren in 2015 to create a firm with revenues of around £100m and headcount of over 1,400. The merger provided Weightmans with a new base in Leeds, giving the firm a presence in nine UK locations, with two offices apiece in London and Manchester. Management at Weightmans, whose practice centres on defending medical and clinical negligence claims, are aiming to consolidate these into cost-efficient single offices with the London office consolidated into one office this year, and Manchester in 2018.

Meanwhile Ward Hadaway employs more than 450 staff, with 80 partners across three offices.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Weightmans performance disappoints as PEP slips 19% and revenue misses £100m target

Weightmans performance disappoints as PEP slips 19% and revenue misses £100m target

Weightmans managing partner John Schorah has slapped a £100m revenue target on the firm for 2016/17 after a year of underachievement, with revenue up just 7% in 2015/16 to £95m despite a major merger and a 19% tumble in profit per equity partner (PEP).

Revenue at the firm rose from £89.2m in 2014/15 to £95m in 2015/16. However, the results are largely underwhelming, given that the bulk of the increase came from its merger with Leeds firm Ford & Warren in July 2015. Ford & Warren was generating around £8m a year ahead of the merger, and Weightmans said at the time of the merger that the deal would create a firm with ‘combined fee income in excess of £100m’.

Schorah (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘Not going to beat around the bush – most of that [increase] came from the Ford & Warren merger. We didn’t have a full year of Ford & Warren – we only had 10 months as we moved them onto our systems in November and we probably lost a bit of productivity then. There was a bit of organic growth over and above that but most of the growth – about £6m – came from Ford & Warren.’

He added: ‘We’re looking at £100m this year. We’ve budgeted for less than that, but that’s our target.’

PEP at Weightmans, whose practice centres on defending medical and clinical negligence claims, dropped 19% to £231,000. This means partners at the firm on average took home £54,000 less than the prior year, when PEP stood at £285,000. It is the firm’s second year of falling partner profits.

Schorah said: ‘The main reason for reduction in the profit is that we did a one-off WIP [work in progress] adjustment. We revalued it and it’s nearly £1m [down]. We were clearing the decks if you like and we’ve taken a harder view on whether it’s realisable. There is more and more fixed fees, because fixed fees are a bigger part of the world.’

Weightmans, which now has 11 offices across the UK, will aim to reduce real estate expenditure over the coming years following a string of mergers to make it one of the UK’s 50 largest firms. With two offices apiece in London and Manchester, the firm aims to consolidate these into most cost-efficient single offices. London will be put into one office space in 2017 and Manchester will follow in 2018.

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Weightmans and DAC Beachcroft reappointed as North West local authorities finalise £10m panel

Weightmans and DAC Beachcroft reappointed as North West local authorities finalise £10m panel

DAC Beachcroft, Hill Dickinson, Weightmans, and Geldards have been appointed as partners on the North West Legal Consortium’s £10m legal panel, positioning them to work closely with local authorities associated with over 40 councils in the North West of England.

Although DLA Piper has been appointed to the wider panel, the firm has missed out on partner status this time around. Addleshaw Goddard, Trowers & Hamlins, Blake Morgan, TLT, Browne Jacobson and Ashfords have also won places on the consortium’s panel which comprises 18 firms in total.

The panel for the consortium will run for four years, and has been awarded across five lots: civil litigation, prosecutions and regulatory; property, planning and environment; corporate governance, ethical standards and information law; projects, procurement and commercial; and adult social care and education.

The consortium has indicated there is room for legal work to extend during the course of the contract to other related organisations including NHS bodies, local emergency services and educational providers.

Weightmans partner Andrew Cooper said: ‘[The position of] partner firm gives us the opportunity to work closer with local authorities. This is an increasingly important consortium in the local authorities sector and we’re delighted to have been reappointed. We look forward to working closely with them in the future.’

Other notable panel appointments this year include Eversheds, Osborne Clarke and Addleshaw Goddard’s appointment to Siemens UK’s legal panel; Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Ashurst’s appointment to Credit Suisse’s recently finalised UK panel; and Eversheds, Reed Smith, Dentons and K&L Gates appointment to a seven-firm global panel created by US car rental giant Avis.

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Partner promotions: Pinsents makes up two thirds in the City as Weightmans makes up three in Liverpool

Partner promotions: Pinsents makes up two thirds in the City as Weightmans makes up three in Liverpool

Pinsent Masons has made up two thirds of its 18-strong partner promotions round in its City office, while Weightmans promoted three in Liverpool this year.

Alongside its 12 partners in London, Pinsents has promoted its first partner in Paris. Dual-qualified in France and the US, Annabelle Richard specialises in e-commerce, online gaming and gambling, data protection and cyber security.

The firm’s five other promotions will be based in offices around the UK. The firm’s promotions have been made across a range of practice areas including property, financial services and energy.

As Pinsents continues to work to improve its gender balance, a notable eight of its partner promotions this year were female, bringing its female partnership to 23%. The figure moves the firm closer to its target to ensure 25% of its partnership and senior leadership team is female by 2018. 

With 18 promotions, the firm has made up substantially fewer partners than last year, when it made up a record 29 partners mostly across energy, financial services, infrastructure, and advanced manufacturing and technology sectors. 

Pinsents senior partner Richard Foley said the firm’s promotion round reflects the quality of people within Pinsents and its commitment to ensuring that talent can flourish irrespective of gender.

He added: ‘All of those who have been promoted have got there on merit, having demonstrated an ability to provide high quality legal advice delivered in the context of the sector in which the client operates. A number have also shown a willingness to innovate with and for our clients to provide market-changing solutions.’

Meanwhile, Weightmans made up its three partnership appointments at its headquarters in Liverpool, with commercial disputes team member Sarah Conroy, real estate lawyer Chris Grady and motor associate Liam McGuire all making the grade.

The firm also moved London healthcare partner Rachel Kneale and Pete Wake from local government in Liverpool to its equity partnership.

Weightmans managing partner John Schorah said the promotions were ‘well deserved’: ‘We have talented and dedicated people across every area of the business and we are delighted to recognise their contribution. Our clients are a priority, so it’s important for us to continue to grow and invest in the diverse mix of skills within our teams, to enable us to provide the best possible service.’

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

Pinsents partner promotions in full:

Tobin Ashby, financial services, UK

Marcus Bate, property, UK

Phillip Birchall, property, UK

Ian Birdsey, TMT, UK

Nicholas Carlin, energy, UK

Jae Fassam, pensions, UK

Anne-Marie Friel, infrastructure, UK

Frances Mallender, financial services, UK

Angus McFadyen, TMT, UK

Adrian Murray, life sciences, UK

Anne-Marie Ottaway, litigation & regulatory, UK

Steven Porter, tax, UK

Caroline Ramsay, competition, UK

Annabelle Richard, TMT, France

Lucy Shurwood, financial services, UK

Francis Tyrrell, infrastructure, UK

Navjeet Virk, energy, UK

Sarah Whitty, financial services, UK

Weightmans partner promotions in full:

Partnership

Sarah Conroy, CDR team, Liverpool

Chris Grady, real estate, Liverpool

Liam McGuire, motor, Liverpool

Equity partnership

Pete Wake, local government, Liverpool

Rachel Kneale, healthcare, London

Legal Business

North west clients – The delivery business

North west clients – The delivery business

To mark our Regional Insight report, we teamed up with Weightmans to assemble a group of senior in-house counsel in the north west.

A discussion over added value in legal services typically begins with a discussion of what the term actually means. Right off the bat, Celia Tierney of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council points out that the phrase ‘best value’ was coined by the public sector, as local government bodies have been required to provide this in their services for a considerable amount of time. On the other hand, Tyco’s regional general counsel (GC) EMEA, David Symonds, sums it up for most when he says: ‘The primary driver that we are judged by is how much we spend externally.’

Legal Business

Weightmans re-elects Schorah and Cutts to serve second term

Weightmans re-elects Schorah and Cutts to serve second term

National LB100 firm Weightmans has re-elected its management team of John Schorah and Dan Cutts to serve another three year term commencing 1 May 2016.

Managing partner John Schorah (pictured right) and senior partner Dan Cutts (pictured left) have worked at the firm for 12 and 15 years respectively. In July this year they oversaw the firm’s merger with Leeds-based firm Ford & Warren which established an offering in Yorkshire and added one office to Weightmans’ existing ten offices across the UK.

Commenting on his re-election, John Schorah said: ‘for us, the Weightmans way is about our people delivering expert knowledge, outstanding client service and quality advice, consistently. As a firm, we have hired key people, expanded in the areas our clients have asked us to, and are being rewarded by excellent rankings, awards and client feedback. We look to build on our success and keep moving forward. Exciting times ahead.’

Cutts added: ‘We will both continue to manage and motivate our teams in our 11 offices across the country, so that we can strengthen our business and continue to exceed client expectation.’

Weightmans, which is listed at number 44 in this year’s Legal Business 100, posted modest revenue growth of 2.5% for the 2014/15 financial year. Revenue, which rose from £87m to £89.2m is at a slower pace than last year when the firm enjoyed revenue growth of 6.6% across all business lines, with many practice areas exceeding annual targets.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk