Firm profile: Marriott Harrison

Last Monday (8 November) the number of partners in the corporate finance team at London’s Marriott Harrison grew to seven. For a 13-partner firm (eight of which are full equity), that is some critical mass.

Rosemary Jackson, formerly an equity partner at Denton Wilde Sapte, is the third corporate partner to join the firm in six months. In August private equity specialist Hugh Gardner came on board from Coudert Brothers, while in March Simon Charles joined the firm from Numis Securities. The firm, which bills itself as an independent corporate and media outfit, may not be as profitable as it was at the height of the boom two years ago, when average profit per equity partner (PEP) hit £370,000, but it is clearly still an attractive destination for partners looking for a change.

“Our profits are currently around £280,000,” says managing partner Tony Morris, a well-known figure in the London legal market, whose own IP-based practice encompasses media, music and computer games. “They’re down from a couple of years ago, but for a firm of our size they’re still pretty good.”

Four years ago Marriott Harrison rebranded and repositioned itself from a media boutique to a corporate media firm. It currently has five core departments: corporate, media, litigation, employment and property. The emphasis, reflected by the leverage of less than 1:1, is firmly on offering clients a partner-led service.

“We firmly believe our strategy is right for a firm of our size,” says Morris, “because with lower overheads and proportionately more partners, we can compete with larger firms for deals in the sub-£40m to £50m bracket.”

The firm’s AIM practice has certainly received a shot in the arm in the last six months with a number of significant deals, including a £15m fundraising and three acquisitions for marketing services business Cello Group, which completed last Tuesday (9 November). It also handled the AIM float of Clapham House earlier this year.

Firmwide, the ambition is to grow to around 20 partners in two years, which would take the firm back to the size it was in the mid-1990s. “We’re looking for people on the media side and in property,” said Morris, “but we have no plans to expand beyond our core areas.”

Morris may be looking for lawyers with good driving skills following the firm’s performance at The Lawyer’s inaugural Formula Law go-karting event in the summer. A team going under the (unfortunately not phrophetic) name Miles-a-Head failed to make the winner’s enclosure. With an expanded team, it might be a different story next year.

Statistics
Managing partner Tony Morris
Turnover £4.85m
Total number of partners 13
Total number of lawyers 27 (including four trainees)
Main practice areas Corporate, employment, litigation, media and property
Key clients Clapham House Group, Durlacher, Eagle Rock Entertainment and Fugro Robertson
Number of offices 1
Location London