BLP’s Eisenberg: Blame it on the big boys

If you were to take a straw poll of UK legal market specialists and quiz them on which firm had the toughest time in 2012/13, it’s a safe bet many would say Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP).

Why? For starters, the year kicked off with the firm shedding 102 legal and secretarial positions in a redundancy programme. Its average partner profits tumbled from £660,000 to £401,000 while net debt grew by 134 per cent from £14.78m to £34.59m. And on top of this the period was characterised by a series of high-profile partner exits.

During all of this turmoil managing partner Neville Eisenberg kept a relatively low profile. Until now. Taking the long view –“The five year context is most relevant,” claims Eisenberg – the BLP head man rules out any “dramatic changes” strategically.

But he does point the finger at certain unnamed heavyweight rival firms in the top 10 for callously lowballing on fees. Or, as Eisenberg puts it, BLP was faced with “a degree of competitive behaviour between firms we’d never expected before”.

What is it they say about “heat” and “kitchens”? Eisenberg insists BLP can handle the pressure and won’t be changing course too much once its current firm-wide strategy review completes, but maybe he should be thinking a little more radically.

There are plenty of US firms who might fancy a chat, and could lend a hand competing with those pesky, shameless bigger firms.

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