Legal Business

Case study: Bond Dickinson


National player Bond Dickinson had a disappointing year financially, with turnover down 3% to £104m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) has also dropped 3% to £275,000, a stark contrast to the firm’s performance in last year’s Legal Business 100, where PEP soared 26% to £284,000 and turnover climbed 8% to £107m. Blaming the results on a harder mid-market and significant IT investment, managing partner Jonathan Blair says that despite the tougher conditions, real estate, private client and transport all performed particularly well.

‘Real estate was strong for us – on the operational property side, on the investor side, on the house building side,’ he says. ‘Private wealth has always been an area for us that has been very reliable. It seems to be able to withstand the vagaries you get in litigation, which tends to be counter cyclical, or M&A activity or any transactional activity. Private wealth is always pretty strong – we have grown that and worked hard on it.’

Legal Business

‘There has been a hardening of the market’: Bond Dickinson turnover and PEP drops 3%


Following the trend of an altogether tougher year for the UK mid-market, national player Bond Dickinson has seen both its turnover and profit per equity partner (PEP) dip by 3% for the financial year 2015/16.

Turnover stands at £104m, down from last year’s figure of £107m, while PEP is £275,000 compared to £284,000 for the financial year 2014/15. The firm says the figures are a result of investment in the business and people in order to be in the best position for long term growth.

Speaking to Legal Business, Bond Dickinson managing partner Jonathan Blair said: ‘There has been a hardening of the market, there is no doubt at all about that. And you can’t operate in a bubble. We had a huge IT investment programme last year which was around [legal software] Aderant and the reality is that has had an impact on your top line – in theory it shouldn’t but in reality it does because those projects are huge and for us it was huge. That was a significant and worthwhile investment but did have an impact.

‘We had put in place a flat year in terms of budget because of that – not because we weren’t ambitious but because we knew what we were doing in terms of investment. As a business we are in a strong position in terms of what we can control. I am less confident about what the marketplace is doing and the actual activity that is going on in the sector. I think it is going to be a tough year for the sector.’

According to Blair (pictured), both the real estate and private wealth teams have seen solid growth over the last year due to increased work from existing clients and panel wins including British Gas, TSB, Barclays and Taylor Wimpey.

Additionally the firm has continued to make strides internationally over the last financial year, securing an exclusive strategic alliance with full-service US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in June. The deal means that Womble Carlyle, a mid-market firm with a large offering in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as a further 14 offices across the US, will refer all UK work to Bond Dickinson and vice-versa.

Womble Carlyle, which has around 550 lawyers and 300 partners, has been in a non-exclusive referral basis with Bond Dickinson for around six years predominantly in the corporate space, however this new arrangement is likely to boost both firms’ fintech and private wealth businesses.

In December 2014, Bond Dickinson entered into its first strategic alliance with German firm Redeker Sellner Dahs as part of a growing international push. Addressing Bond Dickinson’s international strategy was a key priority for Blair after the merger of Newcastle-based Dickinson Dees and Bristol-headquartered Bond Pearce went live on 1 May 2013.

In contrast, fellow national player TLT announced strong results for the financial year 2015/16, posting a 15% increase in turnover to £71.6m while Shoosmiths has seen a more moderate revenue rise 4% to £107m, down on the firm’s double digit growth last year of 10%.

Legal Business

American dream: Bond Dickinson seals exclusive tie-up with Womble Carlyle


The alliance will see all UK work referred to Bond Dickinson

With US merger plays by Addleshaw Goddard and Berwin Leighton Paisner dominating headlines so far this year, last month mid-market UK national firm Bond Dickinson signed an exclusive strategic alliance with full-service US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

The deal means that Womble Carlyle, which has operated on a non-exclusive referral basis with Bond Dickinson for approximately six years, will refer all UK work to the firm and vice versa.

Legal Business

Accessing America: Bond Dickinson makes unique US play with Womble Carlyle tie-up


While much has been made of US merger plays by Eversheds and Addleshaw Goddard, fellow mid-market firm Bond Dickinson has secured an exclusive strategic alliance with full-service US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

The deal means that Womble Carlyle will refer all UK work to Bond Dickinson and vice versa.

Like Bond Dickinson, Womble Carlyle is a mid-market full-service law firm, with a large offering in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition, the firm has a further 14 offices across the US including Atlanta, Columbia, Silicon Valley and Washington. While Bond Dickinson posted turnover of £107m last year, Womble Carlyle was just outside last year’s Global 100 with revenue at around $300m. The US firm has 550 lawyers and 300 partners.

Speaking to Legal Business, Bond Dickinson managing partner Jonathan Blair said there was a clear business case for the move: ‘The US is the largest single direct foreign investor and trading partner of the UK and vice versa. We have got a formal memorandum of understanding in place which has got milestones in there. In addition we have service level agreements in place around quality and standards of work and we will also be targeting specific clients where we don’t currently act for either.’

Blair (pictured right), said the alliance received unanimous partner support when it was put to a vote a couple of weeks ago and will also include a programme of visitations or secondments from both firms.

Womble Carlyle chair and chief executive Betty Temple (pictured left) said: ‘The alliance will increase the already established synergies between our two firms and serve as a catalyst to grow our global skillset and opportunities. Bond Dickinson boasts a client base and national presence that is unique in the UK and mirrors the capabilities and culture of Womble Carlyle in the US.’

According to Blair, the two firms have worked together for several years on a non-exclusive referral arrangement predominantly in the corporate space, however this new arrangement is also likely to boost both firm’s fintech and private wealth offerings.

In December 2014 Bond Dickinson entered into its first strategic alliance with German firm Redeker Sellner Dahs as part of a growing international strategy.

Addressing Bond Dickinson’s international strategy was a key priority for Blair after the merger of Newcastle based Dickinson Dees and Bristol-headquartered Bond Pearce went ahead in May 2013.

Legal Business

Panel extension: Bond Dickinson new addition to Taylor Wimpey adviser list following review


British housebuilding company Taylor Wimpey has added national firm Bond Dickinson to its current roster while renewing its existing panel arrangements.

Bond Dickinson joins Eversheds, Gateley, Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Dentons and Osborne Clarke, who all maintain their spots as external legal providers having been on the panel since 2012. The appointment of Bond Dickinson is effective from 1 January.

The review was carried out by Taylor Wimpey’s group legal director and company secretary James Jordan. Speaking to Legal Business, Jordan said the panel had worked extremely well over the past three years in terms of quality of service, cost effectiveness, relationship and value adding extras such as training.

He added: ‘I am also delighted to add Bond Dickinson due to its expertise, national coverage – a key requirement to become a panel firm – and also its geographical strengths in the North East and South West which will complement the panel.’

Bond Dickinson real estate partner and Taylor Wimpey client partner Duncan Fisher said: ‘We look forward to working with them on their exciting plans for the future and bringing our expertise in the real estate sector to bear for them.’

Bond Dickinson has enjoyed a number of significant panel re-appointments since Bond Pearce and Dickinson Dees merged in 2013, including Virgin, Network Rail, Sainsbury’s and The Crown Estate

Legal Business

Financials 2014/15: Bond Dickinson passes the £100m revenue mark with 7% growth


In its first full financial year since its May 2013 merger, Bond Dickinson has surpassed the £100m mark with a 7% growth rate and a revenue figure of £106.4m for the financial year 2014/15.

The firm, which generated £99.6m in 2013/14, also said that profits had risen around 20% though did not specify the measure. Last year the firm recorded a net income of £15.8m. The best performing sector for the firm was transport which saw growth of 20% and includes clients such as Network Rail while the commercial disputes team generated 25% more revenue than 2013/14.

Speaking to Legal Business, the firm’s managing partner Jonathan Blair said the result was a clear indication of the ongoing success of the union of Newcastle based Dickinson Dees and Bristol headquartered Bond Pearce.

‘The merger has worked. We had two strong businesses we have put together and have created a new, better business. Alongside that we had two great brands which have created an even better brand and the people that we have got in the business have really bought into the vision that we have created.’

Blair added: ‘Everybody is working well together and when you get that you get the successful business. Reaching over £100m in top-line revenue is a good psychological barrier to get over as well. Obviously the market is more buoyant, so I am not discounting that. I’m not going to pretend that isn’t a factor. But of course you have got to be well placed, have a clear set of goals and a clear brand position in the market.’

The last year has been a positive one for Bond Dickinson, which entered into its first strategic alliance with German firm Redeker Sellner Dahs in December 2014 as part of a growing international strategy and increased its London office headcount by 50%. The firm has also enlarged its partnership by over 20 partners post-merger through a mixture of internal promotions and strategic lateral hires.

Legal Business

Promotions round-up: Bond Dickinson and Kingsley Napley promote three as Kennedys makes up female trio in round of four


In the latest round of LB100 firm promotions, Kennedys made a 75% female promotions round as three out of four of its new partners were women while both Bond Dickinson and Kingsley Napley bolstered their practices with a trio of new partners.

Three of Kennedys’ promotions were based in London with insurance liability lawyer Anne-Marie Hodges, insurance specialist Samantha Silver and marine insurance and shipping disputes expert Jonathan Evans all being made up to partner, along with Cambridge-based clinical negligence specialist Amanda Mead.

The firm now has 169 partners with over a quarter female and has made a number of international moves this year, establishing a presence in Moscow, forming a joint law venture in Singapore and opening offices in Scotland.

Kennedys’ senior partner Nick Thomas says: ‘While we continue to welcome talent from outside the firm, nurturing our people and ensuring they have the opportunity to develop their careers at Kennedys is key to the growth of the firm and our future success.’

Meanwhile, national firm Bond Dickinson made up three in its 2015 round across its Bristol and Newcastle offices.

Two joined the firm’s partnership in Bristol with Andrew Harding promoted in real estate and Alastair Mitton promoted to IT Partner in its technology practice. Harding has focused on developing Bond Dickinson’s real estate investment and development offering with a focus on the hospitality and leisure sector, while Mitton’s primary experience has been on large IT and technology projects that have a strong regulatory bias, as well as data protection.

In Newcastle, Kevin Bell was been promoted as a corporate finance partner within the firm’s transport and infrastructure sector team. He advises on heavy and light rail franchise and concession bids, franchise mobilisations plus commercial and regulatory matters for train operating companies.

Also making up three was litigation-focused Kingsley Napley. The firm spread its promotions across practice areas with private client lawyer Simon Hardy, corporate & commercial specialist Anthony Macpherson and family law expert Claire Wood all making the grade.

Hardy specialises in Court of Protection work acting for individuals who lack the capacity to manage their property and affairs, as well as being responsible for Kingsley Napley’s professional Deputyship service. Macpherson’s experience spans a range of corporate transactions including M&A, joint ventures, shareholder agreements, corporate finance and private equity deals while Wood has focused on divorce and separation issues as well as drafting pre and post-nuptial agreements.

Legal Business

LB100: The Second Quartile – Close Hauled


It’s an unforgiving environment, but 2014 once again shows the well-captained mid-tier outfits sailing free.

‘I’m a great believer that you can always do better and however good a particular year was, you have to exceed that. And we are far from perfect.’ So says Simon Beswick, managing partner at Osborne Clarke (OC), one of the strongest performers in the Legal Business 100 (LB100) this year.

The Bristol-based firm saw turnover rise 26% in 2013/14 – the largest single increase in the LB100 – and has seen revenue rise by 69% since 2009.