Beachcroft Wansbroughs agrees partner share scheme with US firm

Beachcroft Wansbroughs is sharing its departing projects team with Buchanan Ingersoll, reports Sean Farrell

Beachcroft Wansbroughs and US firm Buchanan Ingersoll have agreed to share Beachcrofts' projects team when it moves to Buchanans in the new year.

As revealed in The Lawyer (11 October), Beachcrofts' highly-rated head of projects Barry Francis, who specialises in private finance initiative (PFI) healthcare work, is taking five partners and seven assistants with him to Pittsburgh-based Buchanans' London operation.

The other partners are Peter Brazel, Diane Wilson, Michael Park, David Hartley and Lawrence Bruce.

All the departing partners are from the Beachcroft Stanleys side of the merger, leaving only Trevor Blythe and Malcolm Austwick of the original team, whose core work is PFI-based.

Buchanans and Beachcrofts have spent more than two months discussing arrangements for the team's departure, finally resulting in a joint working agreement.

Lord Hunt, Beachcrofts' senior partner, says: “People see movement of people between firms as something that threatens the firm. But people move on.

“PFI work represents only 3 per cent of our practice, but we are trying to set up an example of how to handle partner moves.

“We will have access to the same people as if they were part of our firm and the client will not notice the difference.”

He says the joint working arrangement will apply to all existing projects and may apply to new instructions for the first year.

“Bills will be paid to Beachcroft Wansbroughs and we have agreed a basis with Buchanan Ingersoll that our charges to clients will not be changed.”

Buchanans will take a cut of the fees for the work its team is doing, says Hunt.

Francis says: “The departing group do PFI projects largely but not exclusively in the health sector and we are currently working on about half a dozen health projects.

“The remaining group does some of that, some smaller projects and IT projects.

“There are three large health PFI projects where the majority of work is being done by the departing partners, as opposed to the planning and IT.”

This arrangement will see Francis and members of his team continuing to do Beachcrofts' work for up to three years, he says.

Jerry Mannsmann, head of Buchanans' international group, says the firm does not want to be seen as an aggressive US newcomer.

He says “We have wanted to come in quietly and establish ourselves as part of the legal community here.

“We are trying to find a way of doing this that allows people from both firms to use their skills in the appropriate way.”

Yvonne Smyth, senior consultant at recruitment consultants ZMB, says the arrangement will enhance Buchanans' reputation in London, but adds that there are commercial benefits for all parties.

She says: “This is a good example of how two firms can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, with Beachcrofts benefiting from work in progress and existing relationships.

“Buchanans would have said 'Okay, fine' because they would have had to wait for the lawyers to serve their notice. And from a commercial point of view it suits the clients.

“It's an adult way of doing things and it wouldn't surprise me if more people did this.”

Buchanan Ingersoll opened its London healthcare consultancy office in 1997 and is now using it as a base to build its European healthcare legal practice.

Mannsman says the London office will grow to 50 lawyers while the firm opens consulting arms in other European countries before establishing legal operations there.

Malcolm Austwick will take over as head of the projects team at Beachcroft Wansbroughs.