Eversheds is to bow out of family law and refocus its private client department in Norwich in the latest round of reforms, which has seen a strategic shift towards corporate and commercial work.
Norwich is the only office in the firm's network still with a family law department, and the departure of partner David Sisson and his team will mean the firm brings to an end its long tradition of practising family law.
It is not yet known which firm Sisson will join, but East of England managing partner Ian Shann said that Eversheds will continue to refer work to him wherever he goes. According to Shann, family law is no longer core to the firm and therefore clients will be better serviced if it is done outside the firm.
At the same time, the private client department will see a shift away from broad-based business towards high-value tax-driven work. The two private client partners will remain, but some routine staff will be moved out. "We're changing the profile and moving up the food chain," commented Shann.
Eversheds is also hiving off its financial planning group, which does pensions and investments. In November, the financial planning regulatory regime will change hands, moving away form Law Society control to come under the umbrella of the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
Shann said it will be difficult for Eversheds to conform to the requirements, which require a high level of security, and rather than keep financial planning as a standalone business, it has decided to sell, either to a firm of chartered accountants or to an independent financial adviser.
The move follows on from the firm's decision to hive off its private client practice in Newcastle to regional firm Hay & Kilner (The Lawyer, 13 August). The North East practice has dispensed with private client in favour of corporate and commercial work.
But in a similar move to the East of England, it has retained high-net-worth individual capability. Birmingham started the trend in 1997 when the trust and probate group was moved to Martineau Johnson. Two years ago, the private client group in Leeds was dispatched to Wrigleys. Then, last year, Newcastle head Helen Travoges and a number of clients departed for rival firm Dickinson Dees.
However, despite changes in strategy, Shann claims that Eversheds remains committed to private client work.