Herbert Smith snubs overseas partners for strategy meeting

The timing of Herbert Smith’s November general partner meeting (GPM) has triggered claims that lawyers in the firm’s overseas offices are being marginalised by London.

The partner meeting is due to be held at the firm’s City office at 5.45pm this Thursday (4 November) at a time when the “vast majority” of partners in the firm’s international offices are unable to participate, according to sources.

Item two on the agenda is “Strategy: joining up our firm – involving partners in developing a client network.” One partner, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Lawyer: “It seems that ‘involving partners’ does not include partners outside of London.”

The source added: “Notwithstanding that this issue has been brought to the attention of management on several occasions now, we understand that there is great reluctance to move the meeting to the morning London time, as it would have a negative impact on the ‘collegiality’ of the firm and inconvenience a certain contingent of partners in London who like to have their dinner, which is prepared by a Michelin star chef, immediately following the GPM.”

The agenda confirms that Cornwall-based Michelin star chef Nathan Outlaw will cook for partners after the meeting.

“It will be interesting to see how much longer this sort of behaviour will be tolerated when many of the international offices are currently far more profitable than London,” the partner added.

However, a spokesman for the firm claimed the partner has painted a “slightly incomplete picture”. He said: “Four of these meetings are held a year and up until two to three years ago only one out of four were held in the morning. Now two out of the four are held in the morning to accommodate our international partners, including those in Asia.

“We’ll be holding an Asia partners conference next month, which will be attended by partners outside Asia, so it’s not the case that everything’s held in London,” he added.

Around 25 per cent of the firm’s £450m turnover is generated from its overseas offices, which include Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and Tokyo. Herbert Smith recently claimed this figure will rise to 50 per cent by 2015.