Party as united HowardKennedyFsi goes live, but new firm faces challenges
“Happy merge day!” read the badges pinned to newly rebranded HowardKennedyFsi staff as they partied like it was, well, 2012.
Balloons and goodie bags added to the air of celebration as the first merger of 2013 went live on Friday.
The past 12 months have been a time of joy for those that have sealed tie-ups such as Clyde & Co and Norton Rose, and woe for those that missed out – Cobbetts, for example.
Chief executive officer Mark Dembovsky has certainly worked hard to grease the wheels of change since he joined the firm in 2011. It is a little more than two years since head of family Ursula Danagher quit because of the firm’s failure to engage partners.
Keen to ensure partners are engaged as the merger goes through, Dembovsky has been holding lunchtime ‘Ask Mark’ sessions and even served the Brussels sprouts at a joint HowardKennedy-FSI Christmas dinner.
There have been joint seminars and FSI partners attended the October Howard Kennedy meeting to do a ‘show and tell’ session on their practice.
As with all mergers, a big talking point is the brand. The logo (pictured) is a visual nod to the ‘New perspectives’ strapline and is supposed to be a Venn diagram of unity, with the firm (pink) and the clients (blue) overlapping (purple).
The charm offensive is not an attempt to disguise reality. In a week when another law firm was sucked into administration, Dembovsky was matter-of-fact about the instability of the market.
“If anybody can predict the economy I’d love to speak to them,” he said. “Are we well-positioned? I think we are. But there’s no question many law firms have been affected and we’re no exception. Revenues and profits have been hit.”
Dembovsky is also acutely aware of the male-heavy management committees generated by two traditional firms. Samantha Hook has been appointed diversity partner and Dembovsky admits: “We need to do more at senior level in terms of gender, race and sexuality.”
So, when the balloons come down there will be plenty of work to do to ensure the party doesn’t fall flat.