Freshfields eyes LLP as prelude to US move

LLP 'excuses' run out; London tightens grip as Germans absent from power reshuffle

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has put limited liability partnership (LLP) firmly on the agenda as it reshuffles its central management.
Tax specialist and former head of the employment pensions and benefits (EPB) group Peter Jeffcote takes over from Ian Terry as the UK managing partner.
A Freshfields source said: “[Jeffcote] will have a London focus and will be looking at the structure of LLP. This whole question of what the structure should be going forward – we've kept starting and stopping on it; we've kept on using excuses to put it off. But it's quite a sensible thing to do it, and he'll understand the tax aspects.”
Another Freshfields partner told The Lawyer that the merger with Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber last year removed a certain amount of flexibility because of the tax treatment of the merged entity, and that much of the impetus for structural change would come from a merger with a US firm.
Sources in the Freshfields partnership indicate cautious approval for such a move. One partner said: “Our American partners are in a separate LLP already. But if we do a US deal, the Americans would feel happier if they were in the same partnership as us.”
Responsibility for the US side of the practice has now passed to chief executive Alan Peck, who commented: “Limited liability is obviously something that many major law firms will be considering.”
Jeffcote's appointment as part of the central management team confirms the dominance of the UK side within the merged firm. Only one member of the six-strong central management team – co-senior partner Christian Wilde – is from the German end. The other members are Jeffcote as managing partner, senior partner Anthony Salz, chief executive Peck, chief operating officer Kirk Stephenson and Hugh Crisp as managing partner responsible for people and service development.
A Freshfields partner said: “In an ideal world [Ian Terry] would have been replaced with a German or a Frenchman, but in truth it was very difficult.
“The fact is, there wasn't anyone suitable to do it or who was clamouring to do it. There were soundings taken as to whether German partners would be pissed off about it and the answer was no.”