FFW scraps formal public-sector focus in industry group rejig

Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) is set to reshuffle its sector-based approach in a decision that sees it move away from a formal focus on its troubled public-sector practice.

The firm, which put its 20 per cent drop in average profit per equity partner (PEP) in 2011-12 down to the squeeze on government mandates, is set to slim down its roster of sectors from 11 to five, with the public sector no longer featuring.

The new groups will be: energy and natural resources; financial institutions; hotel, retail and leisure; technology, media and telecommunications; and life sciences and healthcare.

The previous sector line-up included energy and natural resources; financial institutions; hotels and leisure; life sciences; media and entertainment; public sector; real estate; retail; sport; technology and communications; and transport.

The rejig sees the media and entertainment sector group merged with technology and communications, while hotels and leisure have been combined with retail, sport and real estate. However, sport and transport will no longer be key sectors for the firm.

The move away from the formal public-sector focus follows a redundancy round in the public and regulatory group, with two lawyers made redundant after four had been the subject of a consultation starting last year.

FFW technology partner Michael Chissick said the firm would continue to carry out some public-sector work, which contributes roughly 35 per cent of the firm’s turnover, but that the Government’s decision two years ago to scrap close to 200 quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos) had hit the firm significantly (25 October 2010).

The firm said the public-sector squeeze accounted for the large drop in PEP for 2011-12 (5 July 2012). Meanwhile, its average debtor days rose from 72.7 for the end of 2010-11 to 78.5 for 2011-12, with the increase partly due to mandates from defunct quangos no longer able to pay fees.

Chissick said: “We’re still getting 35 per cent of turnover from the public sector, but we do recognise the changes that are taking place in government.”

He added: “For a mid-market firm like Field Fisher Waterhouse, we do need to be focused on being brilliant in certain areas.”

The Lawyer flagged the potential sector-group restucturing earlier this year, with the firm discussing the shift at the time of wholesale changes to its management structure (19 January 2012).

FFW called off merger talks with Lawrence Graham earlier this year (28 June 2012). The firm is not currently in advanced merger discussions with any other firms, but Chissick said it was still open to a combination.