Berwin Leighton and Paisners merge after pay compromise

Berwin Leighton and Paisner & Co have tied the knot after formulating a compromise solution to the firms’ disparate profit distribution methods.

Full partnership votes were held on 1 March, five months after serious negotiations began between the two firms. The merger will be effective from 1 May with the new 116-partner firm to be called Berwin Leighton Paisner.

Berwin Leighton managing partner Neville Eisenberg will take up the same role at the merged firm, as will Paisners senior partner Harold Paisner. The firm’s management board will also include Berwin Leighton chair Peter Robinson occupying the same position and Paisners managing partner Stephen Rosefield as co-chairman with responsibility for integration. A further two places will be taken up by partners from Paisners and four by Berwin Leighton. Discussions about who will head the new firm’s four departments – corporate, property, finance, and litigation and dispute resolution – are ongoing.

The merger follows the careful soundings of partners from both firms on a new remuneration system.

“Obviously, our two systems are very different,” says Paisner.

Under Paisners’ merit-based system, 55 per cent of remuneration is lockstep-based and 45 per cent comes from a performance fund. The firm has three categories of partners: senior equity, junior equity and salaried.

Berwin Leighton’s modified lockstep has a small performance fund of 2.5 per cent, but Eisenberg says the firm had already been investigating alternatives.

The new system is a modified lockstep plus merit, with 80 per cent lockstep and a performance fund of 20 per cent. The set-up of partners will be the same as at Paisners to provide more flexibility for career progression.

Paisner says: “Having junior equity partners has meant that younger partners feel much more part of the firm. It’s made us more cohesive. Junior equity partners feel much more in control and it’s easier for management to work with them. It’s brought a lot of benefits and is something that appeals to Berwin Leighton.”

Eisenberg says the new system is designed to be “modern, progressive and interesting” to people outside the firm.

The immediate driver behind the marriage is the creation of strong corporate and property capabilities. The aim now is to build up the firm’s finance strength. Eisenberg says this will be achieved through lateral hires, organic growth and may also include bolting on departments from other firms.