RPC’s all-equity model key to attracting latest lateral

Reynolds Porter ­Chamberlain (RPC) has made its 20th lateral in three years with the hire of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) real estate partner David Johnston.


Jonathan Watmough
Jonathan Watmough

His arrival will bring the number of partners in RPC’s real estate group to seven, which numbers four laterals.

RPC managing partner Jonathan Watmough said: “The real estate group’s been substantially re-engineered in the past three or so years, so the client base has changed. It used to be ­substantial corporates, whereas now there’s a true property industry focus with a reasonable amount of regeneration and ­redevelopment work.”

Johnston became a partner at BLP in 2006, having qualified with the firm in 1998. He specialises in retail development work and sustainability.

RPC is one of a handful of law firms in The Lawyer UK 200 that still operates an all-equity partnership. Other all-equity firms include Bristows, Dundas & Wilson and Wragge & Co.
Watmough argued that RPC’s all-equity model has been a major selling point in the firm’s lateral hiring campaign.

“It’s an incredibly attractive recruitment feature. The concept of partnership is dear to the people here,” he insisted. “And we don’t find that having an all-­equity partnership causes problems in logjam terms because we have a meritocratic profit culture with no lockstep.”

According to last year’s UK 200 listing, RPC had an average profit per equity partner (PEP) of £327,000 with an equity spread of £130,000-£580,000.

In PEP terms it was ranked 55th, but in The Lawyer’s exclusive table of average earnings per partner (EPP) it was in the same bracket as firms such as BLP, Simmons & Simmons, SJ Berwin and Stephenson Harwood (The Lawyer, 13 September 2010).

Profit shareout is calculated in two tranches: the first is a fixed amount made up of between 60 and 70 per cent of the total net profit of the firm and the second is a flexible points system.

Watmough argued that the adoption by many other law firms of a corporate model has been a major ­factor in demotivating some of their partners.

“When you look at the provenance of [the hires we’ve made (see box)], they’re from the silver circle or the edge of the silver ­circle,” he said. “The strong common denominator
is that they’re owner-­managers and crave what they had before their firms became corporate. They like working in partnership.

“Most law firm partners who know their own minds have rationalised that there’s more to life than crunching through deals and are now looking to do something a bit different.”

RPC movers

2009

Laterals:
Tom Hibbert (dispute resolution)
Jonathan Levy (tax)
David Wallis (corporate)
Paul Castellani (insurance, reinsurance)
Vivien Tyrell (insolvency, restructuring)
David Webster (insurance, reinsurance)
Michael Scott (outsourcing)
Tim Fogarty (real estate)
Gwyneth Macaulay (finance)
Steven Francis (regulatory)
Martin Barrett (real estate)
Sarah Cassidy (real estate)

Promotions:
David Cran (IP, technology)
Stephen Malley (construction)
Alan Stone (construction)

2010
Laterals:

Philippa Connaught (pensions)
Clive Thorne (IP, technology)
Andrew Hodge (employment)
Patrick Brodie (employment)
Karen Howard (real estate)

Promotions:
Adam Craggs (tax)
Karen Hendry (corporate)
Simon Laird ­(professions)

2011
Laterals:

Stephen Smith (competition)
David Meredith (IP and technology)
David Johnston (real estate)