BLP creates international business partner role

So what does BLP’s new ‘international business partner’ do?

What exactly has Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) new international business partner John Bennett been appointed to do?

It’s hard to imagine a firm needs to create a role just for developing client relationships – the portfolio BLP has officially highlighted.

The find-a-merger role seems off the agenda in the jurisdictions on which Bennett will focus initially, the US and China.

“That’s not on the cards,” Bennett says. “But it would be foolhardy to say it would never be considered. As the financial and legal services landscape evolves you have to look at all options.”

Another representative office in the US or China to add to the soon-to-open Beijing base? It is “not planned”, but they “couldn’t rule it out”.

Bennett also says an exodus of BLP secondees to China is unlikely and no secondments to major client Tesco are envisaged in the mould of Peter Robinson, the supermarket giant’s stand-in China head of legal since last May.

Bennett does give away that the firm is expecting to bring aboard local language speakers to add to Chinese speaker and Beijing-based of counsel Justin Sun.

“It’s likely we’ll build [China] by bringing people into the firm who are familiar with China and have the language capability,” he says.

But he gives little away about any rejig of referral relationships, of which the firm has many in the US. In China it works with firms including King & Wood Mallesons, Jun He and Zhong Lun.

Is he escaping the troubles of BLP’s London corporate practice, which has had a lot of investment but has had a tough time? It lost out on a bid for large amounts of Balfour Beatty work to Pinsent Masons despite pitching with its Managed Legal Services offering, something Bennett says he is passionate about.

“Where you’ve got a new way of doing things it inevitably needs a bit of adapting to the market,” he says, highlighting the tough market for corporate and the fact “we can’t buck the trend”.

That doesn’t sound like a clear ‘no’. Perhaps the client thing is a good sell after all.