Stephenson Harwood ace priced out of City market

A senior Stephenson Harwood partner is abandoning the City because he is losing work to less expensive regional firms.

Solicitor-advocate Robin Neill is joining Bristol practice Bevan Ashford as head of international arbitration in the autumn.

Neill says he has had enough of missing out on work because of less expensive rivals. “I doubt whether the profession can carry on charging City rates for the work they are doing,” he says.

“Industry is moving away from saying 'we are actually prepared to pay'. People like me are moving out and wearing exactly the same hat. We are just as able, but are charging half [the rates].”

Neill says that several clients have taken major projects to the provinces.

“I have been losing work here to the regional firms. The last two pieces of work I lost were to people up North because they undercut me by half,” he says.

He says that he will now be marketing his new cheaper rates to existing clients.

Patricia Mitchell, Bevan Ashford's head of commercial litigation, says: “We are attracting an increasing volume of international work.

“In my specialist area we have found clients are only too happy to enjoy the competitive fee rates we can offer while providing the same expertise as is available in the City.”

A Stephenson Harwood spokesman remains upbeat about Neill's decision. “Robin has decided, for personal reasons, to join Bevan Ashford and is leaving us with best wishes for the future,” he says.

Neill says that lifestyle reasons were also a factor in his decision to quit the City.

Neill joined Stephenson Harwood in 1997 from Clifford Chance, where he was a partner for six years.

He specialises in energy, natural resources and infrastructure projects in the Middle East and Europe.

Bevan Ashford has also recruited Lawrence Tucketts professional indemnity partner, David Kirkpatrick, who will join the firm's commercial litigation department.