Kendall Freeman

Managing partner:

Laurence Harris
Turnover: £16.6m
Total number of partners: 21
Total number of fee-earners: 70
Main practice areas: Insurance and reinsurance litigation, commercial litigation, public international law, employment
Number of offices: One
Location: London

Quality is the buzzword at insurance and reinsurance firm Kendall Freeman. As managing partner Laurence Harris explains, improving the quality of the firm’s services is crucial in order to survive the slowdown in the litigation market.

The firm has already suffered a hit in profit due to the state of the insurance litigation market. The revenue fall led to Kendall Freeman dropping out of The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report 2006 league tables.

The firm’s relegation to The Rising 50 came after its turnover tumbled by 9 per cent in 2005-06 to £16.6m, down from £18.2m the previous year. In addition, average profit per equity partner fell by 4 per cent to £332,000.

Harris is adamant that the firm’s profit is holding steady this financial year, although he admits that the contracted litigation market is making it tough for insurance lawyers.

Harris is, however, holding on to Kendall Freeman’s commitment to quality, a mantra that has been with the firm since its formation in 2003.

The four-year-old firm was born out of the demerger of DJ Freeman in March 2003, when the property and media arms left to join Olswang.

Kendall Freeman now concentrates on just four practice areas to prevent it from spreading itself too thinly. This approach has seen the commercial arm grow exponentially, especially in policy drafting for the insurance and financial services market.

The greatest growth area has been public international cases. “These tend to be inter-border disputes or asset recovery, where previous dictators made people surrender their wealth,” says Harris.

Recent instructions include working for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, recovering £1m that had been acquired corruptly by Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State.

But the bulk of the firm’s turnover comes from high-value insurance and reinsurance work from the US and Bermuda from clients such as Axa. This generates half of the firm’s revenue.

“We have, however, dipped a toe into the Hong Kong market [where] we recruited Martin Lister [from Deacons in 2005], who’s a renowned leader in Far East insurance,” says Harris.

He adds: “We do see development of the practice in Hong Kong and China, but we’re taking it slowly. There are no plans for a huge, glass-domed office in China.”