It has been a year of change for KSB Law. For those who fail to recognise the name, the firm went through a rebranding in the middle of last year, changing Kingsford Stacey Blackwell to the more manageable KSB Law (not to be confused with South East firm ASB Law).
While the renaming may seem superficial, there have also been more significant changes at the firm, which in part are attributable to new chief executive Mark Feeney, who joined in September.
Kingsford Stacey Blackwell, as it was, undertook a management review in early 2002. As well as the appointment of Feeney, this review resulted in a new board and management structure, a new partnership deed, a completely overhauled remuneration system and new financial reporting policies.
Feeney, an accountant by background, is no stranger to holding the reins at a law firm. He spent five years as chief executive officer at Russell Jones & Walker prior to his arrival at KSB. Before that he did a four-year stint as Shoosmiths' finance director. “He has a very proactive, very focused approach,” says KSB Law senior partner Jonathan Wood. And he has obviously wasted no time in bringing about some major changes.
The new remuneration system is a “meritocracy”, says Feeney, with no lockstep component at all; it has already been introduced, and profit shares for this financial year (ending 30 April) will be rewarded under the new scheme. This is part of the firm's drive to boost profitability, which currently stands at between £100,000 and £150,000 per partner. “The level of profitability was okay,” says Feeney. “But it's not as good as it should be.”
Feeney is also looking to hive off the personal injury department, KSB Claims, into a separate limited-liability partnership (LLP). “It's got its own culture, business, funding requirements and management structure. It makes more sense to have it as a separate vehicle,” says Feeney. KSB Claims has around 80 staff, 45 fee-earners and generates approximately £5m in fees.
LLP status for KSB is also on the cards. The firm has around 100 staff, almost 50 fee-earners and generates around £7m in fees.
Since last year, the firm has also restructured its business model. “It was originally about 20 divisions of one or two people,” says Feeney, adding that it is now divided into four separate divisions: retail, leisure and development (which includes the property team); commercial; private client; and insolvency and recoveries.
Key deals over the last 12 months include advising on the launch of Warner Estates' and Bank of Scotland's new £220m shopping centre fund Agora, the development of London Electricity's new group offices in Exeter and a victory in the High Court on behalf of client Redevco.
While other firms are all looking to cut back, KSB wants to boost numbers further. The aim is to double in size over the next three to five years through lateral hires and internal growth. “I've spent a lot of time interviewing people,” says Feeney. “There's a lot of firms shedding their senior associates and salaried partners, so there's a lot of these good people on the market.” If the right opportunity arose, the firm is also open to the idea of a merger.
It seems that, along with a nice new name, KSB has got a new lease of life.