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Howard Kennedy boss ticks modernising boxes – as recommended by The Lawyer

When Mark Dembovsky walked into Howard Kennedy’s offices almost 18 months ago he had the critical words of this publication ringing in his ears. Fresh from a tongue-lashing by exiting partner Ursula Danagher over lack of transparency, communication and partner involvement, the firm was licking its wounds when The Lawyer laid it on the line.

To spark a revolution at the stuffy West End firm, we said, incoming CEO Dembovsky had to augment its traditional diet of property and SME corporate work.

He must better define what a West End brand is, invest in people, bring together an idiosyncratic partnership, introduce a coherent hiring strategy and provide a transparent career structure. Not much to ask, surely. His task was, in short, to bring a whirlwind through the doors of 19 Cavendish Square.

Dembovsky admitted last week – as he and Finers Stephens Innocent managing partner Paul Milletts announced their firms’ merger – that the shopping list was “based in reality” and not just a “perception”.

He said he has “put a tick” in each box as he has converted to LLP status and moved towards “openness and transparency”.
Perhaps the rifts between equity and other partners were ready to heal.

Dembovsky told the partnership at its first meeting since 2008 he could make them money, even if they preferred silo-based working.

One partner spoke up. “We want to be joined-up,” he said.

The rest agreed and Dembovsky has not looked back since.

Sam Chadderton