Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
The UK200 2011
4 October 2010
15 September 2010
23 April 2010
7 April 2010
20 September 2010
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer had an unimpressive year in 2010-11 after finally feeling the impact of the global recession in 2009-10.
Turnover (£m): 1,140
Average PEP: 1,308
Equity spread (£k): 590-1,475
Profit margin (%):48
RPL (£k): 561
Turnover at the magic circle firm remained flat at £1.14bn, while net profit fell 7.6 per cent to £544m. This is the second year in a row that Freshfields has posted declining turnover and profits, after reporting stellar results in 2008-09, the year most other firms started feeling the pinch.
The firm benefited in the early days of the recession from winning a raft of instructions as business after business filed for administration. That work had largely dried up by 2010-11 and Freshfields’ corporate practice was at the mercy of a choppy M&A market. The instructions it did get were as impressive as ever, though, with corporate partner Barry O’Brien advising Swiss engineering group ABB on its £860m acquisition of the Ashurst-advised power equipment supplier Chloride. The firm also sat across the deals table from Clifford Chance on the e2bn (£1.7bn) merger of online gaming sites PartyGaming and bwin. Corporate partner Christopher Mort led the team acting for PartyGaming.
Elsewhere, London corporate head (now London office head) Mark Rawlinson snared a leading role acting for BP in its defence of any potential takeovers in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, usurping the oil giant’s usual firm of choice, Linklaters.
Freshfields’ litigation practice continued to do well, turning over £275.9m, making it the biggest litigation practice in the UK 200 by a considerable margin, and winning instructions on cases such as RBS’s High Court battle with Liverpool Football Club’s former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
On the people front, the firm lost a number of high-profile partners during the year, including finance partner Chris Howard, who rejoined his former firm Linklaters, and Hamburg real estate partner Erwin von Bressendorf, who took a team of lawyers to create his own boutique.
Personnel movement was not all in one direction. Freshfields hired Linklaters debt capital markets partner Peter Allen and added Clifford Chance senior associate Duncan Kellaway and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett counsel Gil Strauss directly to its equity partnership.
The firm continues to operate a mostly equity partnership, with just 29 of its 445 partners not in the equity. The latter group earned an average of £448,000 each in 2009-10. The equity partners, meanwhile, took home an average profit share of £1.31m, down slightly from £1.41m the previous year.
Those on the bottom of the 12-year lockstep took home £590,000, while plateau partners received £1.48m. With the firm’s lockstep running from 20 to 50 points, this means one point was worth £29,500 in 2010-11, down from £31,350 in 2009-10 and £32,900 in 2008-09.
Freshfields overhauled its management structure during the course of the financial year, installing former financial institutions head Will Lawes as senior partner and redefining chief executive Ted Burke’s role and rebadging it as managing partner. It also created the post of general counsel for former managing partner Peter Jeffcote and introduced the role of executive partner for Cologne-based global tax chief Stephan Eilers.
While Burke has overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of the firm, there are a number of committees that share various management duties between them. The 15-partner elected partnership council, chaired by Lawes, serves as a non-executive board. It has a supervisory function and is also involved with strategy.
The practice committee, chaired by Burke, oversees the business management of the firm and is made up of all regional and practice heads, as well as people partner Richard Norbruis.
An operations executive made up of the heads of finance, HR, IT and business development, plus partnership secretary Crispin Hain-Cole, has oversight of the firm’s capital expenditure.
Burke said the firm is run very much by consensus, with partners consulted on any major strategic issues very early in the process.