“Clearly there’s a lot of restructuring work around as well as redundancies, and we’ve always been strong on dispute resolution, so that decision to invest three years ago has served us well,” he says.
That said, other parts of the young practice have not fared so well. “Our property and corporate finance groups have been affected,” admits Ryan. “But we’ve reshaped property from a group dependent on the banks for finance work into asset management and portfolio matters.”
Clients in this respect include CBS Corporation, Acon and Three Valleys Water. SA Law is also targeting a handful of major retailers.
Also in the firm’s sights are potential lateral hires, an area in which it has a decent track record. Over the summer the Hertfordshire-based firm brought in two former senior City lawyers, litigator Simon Walsh from Faegre & Benson and corporate lawyer Michael Webster, who joined as a consultant from K&L Gates. Other recent hires include business immigration specialist Satinda Gill, who is dual-qualified as a barrister and solicitor, and former DAC partner John Moore. During the same period SA Law has not lost any partners, although it has been forced to make a handful of redundancies.
Ryan adds that the firm has also been “slightly ahead of the Legal Services Act” in that it operates what he calls “a non-discriminatory career path”. This mans some of SA Law’s support staff, including its practice director, have been able to rise to the level of partner without having that job title as a tag.
“Qualifications don’t matter,” Ryan argues. “It’s effort and contribution to the business that’s key.”
Managing partner: Steve Ryan
Number of partners: 13
Number of equity partners: Four
Number of lawyers: 29
Number of fee-earners: 30
Number of offices: One
Location: St Albans
Main practice areas: Commercial property, corporate, dispute resolution, employment, private client
Main clients: CBS Corporation, Acon, Three Valleys Water, M&Co