On the face of it, 2010-11 was a solid year for Olswang, at least financially. The firm posted a slight rise in revenue of 2 per cent to £92.6m, while average profit per equity partner also rose, from £420,000 to £435,000.
But while the total number of partners grew from 97 to 103,
the number holding equity shrank from 60 to 55, a reduction that included some key departures, such as litigation head Martin Davies’s to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Rejigging the equity and partner remuneration was one of the major management tasks for chief executive David Stewart and
his leadership team, which features senior partner Mark Devereux and consultant Kevin Munslow.
As Stewart put it, Olswang is trying to move to a more
profit-focused way of working that does not dismantle its culture. In practice that means introducing a new structure to its entirely merit-based partner remuneration system. There are now five gateways, with partners assessed on a balanced scorecard of criteria across four quadrants: client contribution, internal contribution, external contribution and performance.
Strategically the big news for Olswang recently has been its push for international expansion. Using its core sectors – particularly media, technology and real estate – as its template to try to distinguish it from the competition, Olswang unveiled plans to open in Singapore during 2011.
Working capital is under control, said Stewart, but the firm’s lockup of 130 days is not good enough, with 110 days in his sights. This is to be achieved via a subgroup of finance partners pushing billings targets and work-in-progress days for each of Olswang’s practice groups.