Clyde & Co is a shipping and insurance law firm by history, though it has expanded its scope enormously since 2000. At that time it was operating out of London, Guildford and Cardiff in the UK, with six overseas outposts in Caracas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris, Piraeus and Singapore. The towering figure of Clyde & Co’s recent history is Michael Payton, senior partner between 1984 and 2013. Over the course of that 30-year spell at the top, Payton transformed Clyde &
Clyde & Co is a shipping and insurance law firm by history, though it has expanded its scope enormously since 2000. At that time it was operating out of London, Guildford and Cardiff in the UK, with six overseas outposts in Caracas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris, Piraeus and Singapore.
The towering figure of Clyde & Co’s recent history is Michael Payton, senior partner between 1984 and 2013. Over the course of that 30-year spell at the top, Payton transformed Clyde & Co from a 16-partner law firm with £6m turnover into a worldwide law firm with turnover of £287m and 285 partners by the time he retired.
Clyde & Co has built its business on its three-pillar strategy of focusing on insurance, core global sectors and emerging markets.
Like their many insurer clients, the firm’s partners have been unafraid to take a calculated risk on advising on investments going in and out of economies that are out of favour with the international political elite. Key to this was one partner, Paul Turner. In 2003 Clyde & Co sent Turner to Iraq to assess legal opportunities in the country. Turner, who had spent years in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime, came back having signed an alliance with Baghdad law firm Numan Shakir Numan.
The firm also established connections in Libya and Iran, and has also worked hard to establish presences in the more popular Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric) economies.
What is more, Clyde & Co became one of only a few practices to make inroads into the USA, that traditional graveyard for UK firms. It now has 10 offices in the USA (and more in Canada and Mexico).
In England, the firm is now open for business in London, Guildford, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Oxford and, most recently, Bristol. A merger with Simpson & Marwick added five Scottish offices to Clyde & Co’s network in 2015.
Another key moment was the merger in 2011 with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, another insurance-focused law firm. Barlows was ultra-traditional and ultra-conservative until almost the end of its life: moves to modernise came too little, too late. It stagnated while Clyde & Co forged ahead, so it was no surprise when it was taken over by that firm. What the Barlows merger did do was make Clyde & Co the big daddy of the insurance world at a time when that market was consolidating (Davies Arnold Cooper and Beachcroft merged at around the same time).
As the firm has grown in size it has also looked to become more innovative in the way it deals with clients. A major part of this strategy has been the introduction of Clyde & Co’s global key client account programme, which gives clients access to unlimited, round-the-clock advice that anticipates legal issues that may arise from their business models. Initially the programme was focused on Clyde & Co’s eight biggest clients, but the firm is now trying to expand the scheme to include 20 key clients.
Payton retired in 2013 and since then, life at the very top of Clydes has proved more troubled. Payton was replaced by insurance partner James Burns, who only stayed in the senior partner role for three years, stepping down in 2016 to take a new position as head of the Americas, tasked with overseeing the firm’s expansion in Canada, the USA, and Latin America.
Burns was replaced by the firm’s head of insurance Simon Konsta, who had been senior partner of Barlow Lyde & Gilbert before it was acquired by Clyde & Co. He concluded that the massive growth under the oversight of longstanding CEO Peter Hasson had led to dysfunction in terms of anything being joined up, with little cross-border collaboration. But despite establishing a new executive committee and appointing global practice heads, Konsta never had the power to truly challenge Hasson, who had been in post since 2005.
Like Burns, Konsta walked away from the role early, with arbitration partner Peter Hirst taking on the job in 2019. But Hirst himself only lasted one year in post. He had a reputation as a hard-hitting, no-nonsense lawyer whose nature made him a formidable force – but he clashed with other partners and stood down at the end of 2020 following (unproven) bullying allegations.
The senior partner role remains vacant for now; whoever takes the job on will have to grapple with a firm with solid underlying financials, but an organisation which has become increasingly factional.
What is the trainee salary at Clyde & Co?
1st year trainee: £38,000
2nd year trainee: £40,000
What is the NQ salary at Clyde & Co?
NQ solicitor: £68,000
Number of trainees: 82