Although there was a slight fall in the number of lawyers and fee earners employed by Channel Islands-headquartered Ogier last year, with the firm reporting four fewer lawyers in 2013 than in 2012, it added three partners, including one in its equity. This led to a reduction in the firm's leverage from 4.8 lawyers per equity partner to 4.5.
Strategically, Ogier sent the two lawyers it had based in London back to Jersey, including global corporate head Simon Dinning. Lawyers are now flying in and out of London as needed. Ogier argued that London is close enough to its HQ in Jersey, where almost half of its lawyers are based, that it does not need anyone there permanently.
The decision was followed in early 2014 by a much bigger strategic move, when the firm divested its fiduciary business in a management buyout by Ogier Fiduciary Services' (OFS's) partners, with an enterprise value of £180m. The sale saw private equity company Electra Partners invest £83m into OFS. While the law firm and OFS will share premises and, for a period, branding, effectively the move means Ogier, like Walkers before it, is now focusing wholly on law.
The divestment has naturally taken up much of the firm's time in recent months, but the scene is now set for future investment. Group chief executive officer (CEO) Nick Kershaw is taking the role of global managing partner and regional managing partner for Europe, while legal CEO James Bergstrom becomes regional managing partner for Asia and the Caribbean. The rest of the management structure is now focused more on sector than practice area lines.
The coming year will see Ogier focus on service delivery, with plans to create a new IT system, effectively starting from scratch, according to Kershaw. In the future, Ogier is likely to add to its partner count, to bring that high leverage and partner-to-associate ratio closer to the sector average.
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Decisions over the past 12 months will provide considerable comfort to those concerned about exposure to clawback action.
The High Court of England and Wales may refuse to exercise its discretion to wind up companies incorporated abroad where there would be little likelihood of the petitioners deriving benefit from the winding-up.