CMS toasts alliance’s first year as most members escape worst effects of slump

A year after voting for closer integration, the nine firms in the CMS network have hailed the progress of the alliance a success.

Hundreds of partners from the nine firms met in Brussels last month, with the managing partners pointing out that pitching for panel places as the CMS network rather than as ­individual firms had proved particularly successful. Winning a place on the panel of insurer ACE European Group is one example.

However, it is understood that UK member CMS Cameron McKenna and Dutch firm CMS Derks Star Busmann have been hit hardest by the recession.

Most of the CMS firms do not report financial performance, but sources at the conference said that Italy’s CMS Adonnino Ascoli & Cavasola Scamoni reported impressive growth.

The Swiss and German members also weathered the economic slump with turnover increases.

Camerons, which posted its results for the 2008-09 year last month, saw a slight rise in turnover to £240m. However, its average profit per equity partner fell 15 per cent to £554,000.

The figures compared well to other firms in the UK market, but within the alliance all except the Dutch arm reported a better ­performance.

The members of CMS remain separate entities but share branding, conflict ­systems and marketing. They also put money into a central pot for large projects such as rolling out a single website design across the network.

All nine firms voted for convergence, or closer ­cooperation and a single offering for clients, in ­February 2008. At that point they rejected ditching local firm names in favour of operating under the CMS brand, after opposition from the smaller members.

It is understood that the organisation is happy with how the model has held up in the face of the economic crisis and there are no plans for further integration.
One source who was ­present at the conference told The Lawyer: “I don’t think there’s any desire for financial integration.”

That said, CMS has ­piloted full integration in one of its satellite offices. CMS Bureau Francis ­Lefebvre, CMS Hasche Sigle and CMS Cameron McKenna merged their Moscow ­operations last year.

The partners are members of a separate profit ­centre with its own limited liability partnership. CMS is considering rolling out the model in other jurisdictions such as Shanghai, where more than one member firm has an office.

One of the key issues ­facing CMS is making sure it has the strongest possible presence in each jurisdiction. CMS Hasche Sigle for example is one of the largest firms in Germany; however, Camerons is the twelfth largest in the UK (although it is the largest firm in CMS).

Camerons managing partner Duncan Weston is known to favour merging with a smaller firm, or ‘pearl’, to increase the firm’s presence in the UK.
However, his merger plans are believed to be on hold until the economy recovers.