Landwell promises fail to materialise

It must have been a dispiriting meeting. Last year, in a training centre in Bloomsbury, a group of senior Landwell managers met to discuss strategy for the coming year. A confidential document obtained by The Lawyer reveals that few of the objectives have since been met. Instead, the same headaches remain – not least in recruitment.
Landwell currently has just three equity partners – Chris Arnheim, Paul Downing, who works almost exclusively for international network Landwell Global, and corporate partner Leon Flavell. Apart from Flavell, who spends around 60 per cent of his time on fee-earning, the other equity partners are not revenue generators for Landwell UK.
The strategy document dated last October admits: “We have so far been unsuccessful in our efforts to recruit new equity partners, though we are now close to recruiting two or three.” It claims: “It is becoming much easier to attract high-quality lawyers as other firms slow their recruitment.” However, it has taken the struggling accountancy-tied firm nearly a year to make good the promise to recruit.
Nearly a year after the document, two new equity partners have finally been recruited who are due to start in September. Arnheim declined to name the two new recruits, but The Lawyer understands that one is Jennifer Donoghue, an insurance partner at Theodore Goddard. Arnheim said the other is a lawyer who has been working in a non-legal capacity in the commercial team of a major insurance company. The pair will join the financial services group.
Donoghue was previously a senior legal adviser at the Insurance Directorate (then part of the Department of Trade and Industry) and afterwards headed up the insurance department at Theodore Goddard. While she is a decent lateral hire, like many other Landwell joiners she does not have the profile of top laterals taken on by KLegal or, before it collapsed, Andersen Legal.
The strategy paper also says: “Our financial performance is now at a level where we can promote some of our partners to equity, and would hope to do so over the next year.” However, no salaried partners have yet been promoted.
The strategy for Landwell Global identifies corporate transformation and transactions, e-business and intellectual property/IT, HR and M&A as key areas for growth. The paper says these are “areas where it is believed that Landwell can be a market leader, either by reputation or by number of deals, or at least have a significant competitive advantage within the next two or three years”.
Yet while HR (which includes employment and corporate immigration) is well respected, Landwell has some way to go in the other areas, particularly corporate. Landwell's corporate group remains tiny in City terms. Flavell, who counts the likes of Caffe Nero among his clients, is highly rated, but is perceived to have little support.
Arnheim commented: “We're fussy – we need people who can perform over a long period. There's a trade-off between quality and size in the short term. We need to grow a practice that is profitable.”
Or how about a little less conversation, a little more action.