Christopher Hoyle

Claire Smith meets KLegal’s newest partner Christopher Hoyle, a telecoms expert who will be sorely missed by his old firm Rakisons.

It is Monday morning and the new head of telecoms at KLegal has been in his post for less than six hours, but already former Rakisons partner Christopher Hoyle seems very laid-back.

“I started last Friday as a Rakisons partner and ended the day as a KLegal partner,” adds Hoyle, the leading telecoms lawyer who jumped ship last week and headed for the KPMG associated law firm (The Lawyer, 7 February).

He adds: “I told my department formally last Thursday – we had a departmental dinner. I said ‘by the way I think you should realise that I am off to KLegal’. On Friday my partners asked me did I mind if that was my last day.

“I am relaxed about it. I still haven’t been in touch with a single client.” Hoyle also says he has not called any members of his former team.

He appears to find his situation vaguely entertaining and is almost cocky about his new-found celebrity. And while he does not want to dwell on the situation he has left at his old firm, he is only too happy to recount what he has done there.

He says: “I had been there four years and created the department. There are approximately 10 lawyers there doing pan-European work for a variety of clients. I have recruited European lawyers and have trained them and I have leveraged the clients into other parts of the firm.

“I have taken a lot of time and effort over the years to build up the brand name Rakisons.”

Telecoms now accounts for around a quarter of Rakison’s turnover, and Hoyle is widely credited with developing a strong niche practice, with clients including foreign governments.

One top player in the field says: “His departure will be a huge shock for Rakisons. Chris has been leading a team there and he has carved out something of a niche. He is a well-known name because he made a success of his practice from the Rakisons platform.”

Others say he did a very good job while he was with Rakisons and no doubt KLegal hopes he can build a similarly strong team there.

Hoyle is certainly optimistic about the task ahead. He recounts an obviously well-rehearsed story about the Bishop of Norwich to explain his leadership strategy. He says the Bishop once asked how he should lead his flock and was told to see which way they were going and then walk ahead.

“I know the market and all I am doing is walking in front. I don’t flatter myself that I have any influence,” he says.

Before joining Rakisons four years ago as a partner, Hoyle gained his telecoms expertise at 13-partner City firm Hopkins and Wood, now Hobson Audley following a merger. He was an IT lawyer at the firm but built up a telecoms practice in the three years he was there.

A source who worked with him says: “He was hard-working and ambitious. He puts in a lot of hard work but he has quite a genial approach, he is quite a genial character.”

Hoyle now intends to move on to the top tier of clients.

He says: “There is no future for niche players in the telecoms field – the niche firm will be unable to provide all the services to the major clients in the market.

“Look at Vodafone Mannesmann, Linklaters did that and I do not think it would describe itself as a niche telecoms firm.

“I had taken the Rakisons projects about as far as I could. We had many very good tier two and tier three carriers but very few tier one. I would much rather be providing advice to tier one clients.”

After less than a day at KLegal, Hoyle is already a convert to the multi-disciplinary approach. “I can see the opportunity of using the skills of the professionals in KPMG to leverage my services and provide a sort of one-stop shop for clients,” he says.

He adds that he is extremely ambitious, and plans to take on the big boys in his new position.

He says: “We will be competing with the large US law firms, the ones with the big M&A practices, and also the big names that practise a multi-disciplinary approach. Those are the competition for the type of clients that one is targeting – the multinationals and large users.”

Hoyle, already a big name in the telecoms market, is certainly relaxed about his high-flying intentions.

He says: “I am looking forward to the challenge now to move things on to a different dimension. I recognise that all I will get is an opportunity but that is all I have ever needed. I fully expect that I can bring on bright, like-minded people and give them interesting work.”

However, getting in touch with him is not easy since he does not yet have a telephone, a curious situation for the man who has restructured telecoms networks across Africa.

“It is amusing, isn’t it?” he says with a boyish smile.
Christopher Hoyle
Telecoms partner