Olswang fills Berwin Leighton’s shoes for Lloyds venture work

Olswang has completed its first-ever deal for private equity house Lloyds TSB Development Capital.

The retail bank’s private equity arm is one of several corporate finance houses that have defected from Berwin Leighton, along with partners Chris Mackie and Fabrizio Carpanini. Both joined Olswang as partners in February this year (The Lawyer, 22 November 1999).

The other corporate finance houses that have followed Carpanini and Mackie are F&C Ventures, Friends Ivory & Sime and Gresham Trust. All are leading houses in their fields.

Olswang now does all their core corporate work, although Berwin Leighton still does small amounts of work, such as employment.

Olswang is also acting for leading AIM-nominated adviser Smith & Williamson on the back of Mackie’s existing relationship with the corporate finance house (The Lawyer, 2 October).

But Berwin Leighton remains sanguine about the client loss. A spokesman says: “There were a number of private equity houses that [Carpanini and Mackie] acted for which basically went with them. Any partner has a whole bunch of clients, but there were a selection of those that moved with them. The core work at the primary contact has moved.”

He adds that the firm is still doing some work for the houses, but concedes: “In billing terms, it’s not exactly the cream.”

Private equity is dominated by personal relationships between lawyers and bankers. The in-house legal departments rarely, if ever, choose law firms.

Carpanini says: “One of the most important things has been to secure as many of our old clients as possible, and we’re pleased that the majority have come across. It is the individual that the client is working with rather than the firm.”

Olswang has also recently completed its first deal for leading corporate finance house Sovereign Capital, which up until last week was called Nash Sells & Partner.

One of Carpanini’s contacts, a director at Gresham Trust, recently moved to Sovereign and instructed Olswang on the basis of their existing relationship.