Gold sets out his vision for the future of Herbert Smith
1 November 2004
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David Gold, Herbert Smith’s senior partner-elect, has not wasted any time since emerging victorious over practice partner Richard Fleck in the firm’s management elections.
The firm’s current head of litigation has already unveiled the management model he hopes to install when he takes office next April.
As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (27 October), the radical restructure is expected to result in the creation of a role akin to that of a managing partner.
Gold, who won the senior partner race on 25 October, said he is going to identify a partner to work closely with him on running the practice side of the business.
The shake-up is also expected to result in the appointment of a chief operating officer. Gold said that he would like the post to be filled by a non-lawyer who is a professional manager.
“It’s possible that the second partner who is going to work with me will actually take on the role of managing partner,” added Gold.
Gold said that his number two will probably be a corporate partner, in order to create a bridge between the contentious and non-contentious practices.
One Herbert Smith source said the role would probably be filled by a more junior corporate partner than Fleck, Gold’s rival in the senior partner elections.
A decision is yet to be made about whether the role of Asia managing partner, a post currently filled by Tim Parkes, should also be replaced.
As one of Herbert Smith’s biggest billers, Gold is keen to continue to do as much fee-earning as possible and expects the same from his management team.
Corporate v litigation
Although Gold is the first litigator to become Herbert Smith’s senior partner for almost 20 years, he rejected any suggestion that his victory will ignite a power struggle between the firm’s corporate and litigation departments.
Denying that the support for him and Fleck was split purely along practice lines, Gold argued that he is fully aware of the challenges facing the firm’s corporate practice.
Herbert Smith has been unable to capitalise on its M&A successes of 2000 and 2001 and now faces serious competition with Lovells and Ashurst to be the top choice outside the magic circle.
One of Gold’s key objectives during his five-year term is to continue growing Herbert Smith’s international reach and build closer ties with its alliance partners. “Over the next five years we really want to grow the internationalisation of this practice. That means taking the [European] alliance to the next dimension,” he said.
Herbert Smith’s international strategy is in stark contrast to most of its City rivals because of its European alliance with Gleiss Lutz and Stibbe. Gold insisted that this model was successful, although he admited that the firms needed to get closer to ensure that they could provide a seamless service to clients.
On the US, where Herbert Smith does not have any formal alliances, Gold ruled out any possibility of launching an office or establishing an exclusive relationship with a US firm. He said: “We’ll make sure that we strengthen the relationships we have with firms in the various cities to ensure we increase the referrals working in all directions.”
The finance practice
According to The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report, Herbert Smith’s finance practice ranked 15th in the top finance firms table, turning over just £21.9m in 2002-03.
Gold conceded that the firm could do better in finance, but argued that this was an area where there were plenty of opportunities for the firm. Pledging to work alongside division head Clive Barnard to identify what is lacking with the firm’s finance capability, Gold argued: “I’ve got everything to play for because as a small practice, there’s scope to grow billings.”
Few would doubt Gold’s willingness to tackle these key issues head-on. The only question is whether he can combine the demands of management with his desire to maintain a full-time practice. Given his voracity for work, it would be unwise to bet against him.