Eisenberg seeks friends as BLP catches a cold

Managing partner Neville Eisenberg has been a revelation at Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), boosting profit per equity partner by 120 per cent in the past four years, while dragging turnover up by 40 per cent over the same period. But The Lawyer can reveal one mistake that has already come back to haunt him.

Eisenberg has just been re-elected as managing partner for a third successive term (see page 2). One of the central pillars of his management philosophy is to make BLP not only the best law firm to work for, but the very best place to work. And this has been Eisenberg’s first real failure.

After months of scoping out new offices, Eisenberg decided that he rather liked the riverside view at his London Bridge offices and that the firm would be better off splashing the cash on refurbishment rather than sparkly new premises. And who could blame him? There are few nicer places to sip a cocktail on a summer’s day than the terrace at BLP’s Adelaide House HQ. Mistake. Last week, within hours of being confirmed as boss for a third time, the heating went down. With the snow falling on London town, this wasn’t the best way to ingratiate yourself with your employees.

Given his inability to deliver suitable premises for his 1,000 shivering staff in London, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Eisenberg has chosen to pursue an overseas strategy of alliances. Few firms are closer to their best friends than BLP is to Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, but whether the US firm’s 20-lawyer Paris office is sufficient for BLP’s needs in France is doubtful. Indeed, Eisenberg may have realised that relying on his American pals for best friends may not be a good idea.

Italian firm Santa Maria dumped Kramer Levin last year in favour of Greenberg Traurig, which has its own BLP/Kramer-style relationship with Olswang. (Note to Neville: it may look like Olswang is rebuilding itself in your image, but Jonny Goldstein didn’t make the same mistake with his building. You won’t find the heating failing at its swanky Holborn office.) Eisenberg is also prepared to invest time and some of those huge profits in developing relationships in the Netherlands, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Spain and Switzerland.

Still, while he’s developing relationships, Eisenberg could spend some time and money finding a decent plumber. We hear Poland has a few.