Frontrunners emerge for Clyde & Co senior partner role

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  • Several people have wanted this job for a while. Will the losers stay or fracture off ?

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  • In many ways the hardest act to follow given the relative success of Clydes and the distinctive culture (which doesn't appeal to all of course but one would hope is bought into by the current partnership). Arguably Clydes will face some of its toughest challenges to come given the margin pressure on insurance work, threat from volume players particularly for its out of London operations which are now significant, and the limitations that come from a relatively highly geared balance sheet. Whoever succeeds will need to be strategically minded and capable of working closely with Peter Hasson - who has the right business skills and spots when others are lacking the same.

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  • This is a genuinely difficult situation for Clydes. How do you replace a leader of Payton's stature? Burns is a nice bloke but he does not have sufficient charisma or leadership experience to run the firm, and Hasson has even less. The thought of those two after Payton is like waiting for Val Doonican to follow Beyonce. It may hurt them to face it but Clydes only has one person available with the requisite charisma: Konsta. It's Konsta's to lose.

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  • The best option for Clydes right now would be a 'merger' with the likes of DLA or Norton Rose. This would provide them with a management team that really understood what is needed to run a large international law firm and to get beyond static profitability. There is no one in the management team at Clydes who is able to deliver this.

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  • As usual the legal press have been completely duped. The senior partner position is meaningless in a firm where absolute executive power is in the hands of Hassan. It really doesn't matter who is senior partner: they will have to do their Master's bidding! Don't be fooled that Payton ever stood up to him. It is a complete irrelevance.

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  • Whoever comes in as senior partner needs to have a complete clean sweep of the management. Hassan and his hoardes of support staff are killing the firm's profits.

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  • One person who no one seems to speak of as a potential senior partner but who would be ideal for the role and the people's favourite is Kevin Bitmead. He knows the London market inside out and is a brilliant speaker.

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  • At last a comment with some common sense thinking behind it. Konsta/Kosta may have the SP form albeit with an outcome not universally respected but Bitmead is no bit player. He is well respected across the market for his ability to angle service to what clients are really looking for. He fillets out the unncessary work that inflates bills and creates a rod for most firm's backs. The net result is someone who has a line into where Clydes should be casting its future and a dab hand at reeling in the prize client catches. Many will be awiting his candidature with baited breath.

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  • What a good idea. At a time when Clydes' business model in the UK is shifting more towards lower priced / higher volume claims now accessible through Manchester and Oxford, what better than to have a seasoned practitioner at the helm in the form of Kevin Bitmead. It may also help stem the flow of former BLG partners once the lock-ins have ended.

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  • Although most commentators are carping on about Konsta's suitability he could flounder when it comes to gaining support from legacy grouper Clydes partners despite having sat on the BLG perch. There's def a plaice for Bitmead now that Clydes are fishing in provincial waters.

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  • Kev's a good guy who has done very well in his sector of the market but as an SP of a major international law firm? Not sure he'd be up for it in any event.
    Surely it has to be a Clydes partner this time round.

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  • That last comment speaks volumes about the status of BLG partners in the 'merged' firm.

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  • Strong leadership can trump problematic strategic issues such as integrating lower rated work into the system and bringing on overseas offices as yet unused to the colour based "my file not your file" culture ...and at the same time tackle the borrowings issue. There's no easy substitute for Payton who built an empire that the likes of Khan, Rome or the Ottoman's would be proud of. Those traits are rarely seen in the western world today.

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  • Kev IS a Clydes' partner. This is what is known as the 'merged firm'!

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  • It should be an ex-BLG partner for balance. Since Hassan has absolute control of everything, BLG partners have no influence whatsoever. It would give a good signal to have an ex-BLG partner. Clydes needs a fresh start. The obvious person for SP is Sarah Clover. Sarah is by some way the most valuable partner in the London office. What a great signal of change it would give. I may be wrong but I believe - and this is incredible - that every single member of Clydes' very large board is a white male in their 40's and 50's. They are completely out of touch with the firm.

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  • Sarah would redress the image problem the firm has of being on the aggressive side and lacking the team spirit that she has in spades.But outside of Professional Indemnity is she well known enough across the market and does she have experience outside of London - aside from her knowledge of HK of course? That would also allow Richard Harrison some management headroom.

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  • That makes a lot of sense. The only way you follow someone like Michael Payton is by doing something very different.

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  • Doing something different will be essential if this firm is to be viable beyond its recent spate of expansions. The growing balance sheet needs feeding and the insurance market won't be the easiest larder to rely on going forwards. Unless Clydes can diversify (including shedding its silverback persona) into non-insurance areas with more success and somehow extract itself from the less remunerative prizes obtained through the BLG blag, it will increasingly become vulnerable to breakaways lead by partners and teams looking for the levels of profitability that their specialisms merit and which will be diluted by the less profitable practices and expanding central overheads - including property costs both new and residue. Peter Hasson will know this but whether he will be able to team up with a similarly enlightened Senior Partner remains to be seen.

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  • The last comment is right on the money. You get the feeling that there is no real strategy on insurance or anything else. Why would commodities/energy lawyers want to work in a firm that does road traffic cases? Hassan has had long enough to formulate a strategy: he needs to show whether he has vision or is just a paperclip counter.

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  • What must be depressing to the candidates is that Michael Payton has not even gone and already people are tearing themselves apart. His presence was talismanic. Should he reconsider his departure date until a Tony Angel style person can be found from outside?

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  • The big question is whether the firm has outgrown Hassan. His excessive control was necessary when the firm was smaller but now it is the biggest brake on unleashing the energy in this firm. It is the classic 'dead hand' of management!

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  • It wouldn't surprise me if we see BLG reconstitute itself and spin off post-lock in, rising like a phoenix from the ashes. They are like fish out of water at Clydes. The brand still has its merits and wouldn't have the 'ABC' anchor weighing it down

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  • I hadn't realised the position Clydes were in until I asked around. It does seem as if the inbound SP will have a lot on his or her hands given the timing for the former Barlows partners possibly leaving (with their client following) and with the other business issues. It's a wonder anyone will stand for election at all.

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  • BLG break out must sound appealling to many just now particularly if they are getting the 'ABC' treatment from clients. Most would be better off at one of the other insurance firms with more charisma.

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  • I'm sure I'm not the only legal recruiter with a hamper full of Clydes' partners and lawyers looking to move - not just ex-BLGers. Far away from a happy place.

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  • Not the only one - me too. Admittedly some are harder to market than others because of the lock-in premium but these are sought after individuals ... and teams.

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  • Lesson from history - the decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight

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  • It will take some time for the tipping point to be reached though. Once the lock-ins have less than 12 months to expire, the internal structure and debt / pension gap won't be supportable.

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  • Ah ... at last a mind at work rather than an attitude! Rome declined because they gradually entrusted the role of defending the Empire to barbarian mercenaries who eventually turned on them. Law firm leaders, take note

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  • Barbarian mercenaries - now in which firm would we find those? Let's look through the blue window.

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  • The comparisons between firms and former empires is too attractive to ignore. What contributed to the fall of the Mongol Empire?

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  • Throughout history, all civilizations rise and fall and the decline is always prefaced by decadence. Where is any law firm on that curve? Any prospective senior partner, or merger partner, would do well to think that through very carefully. For the uninitiated, cultural decay, structural weakness and reliance on finance are the usual warning signs

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  • Clydes desperately needs to be be swallowed up by a much bigger international firm and lop off the low value/UK regional stuff. It was pursuing a highly successful international strategy. This would put it back on track to restore the ground lost by this ill-conceived merger. Herbert Smith is the obvious candidate given the litigation base of both firms. Clydes also desperately need a credible management team. It's now painfully clear that Payton's strength concealed the weakness of all those around him.

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  • Why is no one talking about David Bennett as SP? He is highly respected, and more to the point he is both trusted and liked by partners and associates!

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  • Clydes needs to merge, to sort out its idiosyncratic business lines and petty empires and its tolerance of behaviours which are frankly archaic and reminders of a world without securities legislation, accountability to clients or adherence to even the most basic compliance procedures. So much will happen once Payton departs, "Clydes Chambers" ends and Hasson becomes more directly accountable to the partners as a whole.

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  • In response to Borat, the end of most empires comes about through disunity. So having a clear and common purpose, with teamwork, strong leadership, and the right level of resources will be critical after Michael steps aside.

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  • Anonymous 10.52 - the last thing Clydes needs to do is merge again. On the Insurance side alone the firm looks like a total joke - some clients who use the Northern office must have had 5 Notices of Change in as many years. What they need is stability and to stay out of the legal press for a reasonable period of time. If you look at the main players CC, DLA, A&O, Slaughters - you either don't hear very much at all or only good news - not chaotic claptrap/arms flailing in the air all year long. They are going to implode and destroy themselves the way they are going about it - chill in 2013! Hands off the blogs … keep calm and carry on …

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  • Could be there won't be much choice in the matter come 2014/15 when the economy swings out of favour for Clydes and the post merger exits begin.

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  • Fair play to you for speaking out for the clients. So what exactly is in all of this merger fever for us? Not very much at all I'd say. Since when has 'big' ever meant 'quality' or 'service' for clients?

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  • According to published numbers, between 2009 and 2012 Clydes grew turnover by 50% whilst PEP declined by 7%. By any standards, that's some growth story! What's the point?

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  • If the last statistic is true then it is an indictment of management. Mergers should deliver profitable growth. The feeling I have is that Clydes has set itself back about 10 years by a domestic UK merger, undoing the benefits of years of international expansion.

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  • They have managed to take out one of their main competitors and cherrypicked its best people. That has to have been a good thing.
    However, it is striking to observe how BLG's culture of destructive infighting, aggravated by a decade of ineffective leadership, seems to be infecting Clydes.

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  • There is no doubt that BLG suffered from a lack of collegiality but this issue has little to with that. This is all to do with the passing of Michael P. It is like the Berlin Wall coming down. Clydes partners must decide whether to accept the 'politbureau' old guard, who are seeking to stitch up a quick transition, or to ask for a properly democratic process. That process should involve inviting candiates to come forward with their proposals without fear, and allow proper debates and hustings. That is not chaos or weakness, it is democracy. Democracy will build legitimacy in the management and ensure Clydes goes forward as the truly excellent firm we know it to be.

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  • Democracy in a law firm? Now there's an interesting concept - perhaps it will catch on. From insiders at Clydes it seems that collegiality is not high on the list of firm's values so at least the two firms had one thing in common - it's a merger triumph. Interesting that Clydes seems to be fairly successful - notwithstanding its falling PEP in real terms - despite being inherently a tough place to work.

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  • Getting back to the main issue, electing a former BLG partner as SP would clearly show that the merger has been a success rather than the emergency takeover as put about by many. Of the former BLG partners, Konsta is the only one with the experience to be credible. Most of the other leading players other than Hill (too young - sorry Rob), Clover (too valuable to her practice), and Bitmead (no international experience), left before the merger was put through. If a legacy Clydes partner gets elected it will hasten the departure of more great lawyers in search of a more appealling work culture and new clients from the ABC club.

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  • You're all dreaming if you think any BLG partner has any chance whatever, despite the obvious merits. Anyway, it's entirely academic - post-Michael, Peter H will run the place on the numbers; senior partner will likely be a titular appointment

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  • Does anyone know why Clyde's profit margin is only 25%? A few years' ago it would have been closer to mid-30's. Given some aspects of the international business are very high margin indeed (eg the Middle East), this suggests the core UK insurance business is under enormous pricing pressure and is in steady profit decline. And this will be hastened by the BLG takeover.

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  • Yes great strategy! Insurance is dragging down our business so let's fill the firm up with more of it, particularly low margin regional work!

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  • If your talking frontrunners then Rich Harrison has to be up there. He demonstrated strategic nous using his Manchester heritage to drive through the game-changing Halliwells deal at Barlow's, and combines that kind of vision with a sense of tradition that will play well with the Clydes contingent. As a regular appointee to the various BLG management boards, he's also clearly got the people's vote, at least from BLG alumni.

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  • That's a great late suggestion. Having Harrison would unite what remains of the BLG contingent yet not compromise either Konsta's or Clover's need to keep with their practices. He is also in tune with the northern practices. Being involved in the Halliwell deal is one to keep of the CV but otherwise fits the bill if an ex-BLG partner stands a chance in the SP hurdles.

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