Hammonds moves to quell Leeds protests over London

Crossley fends off criticisms over financial performance, lateral pay guarantees, new offices and client entertainment

Hammonds is aiming to put to rest unprecedented protests by its Leeds office after a group of key partners confronted managing partner Richard Burns over the performance of London and the firm’s overall profitability.

The Lawyer can reveal that four leeds partners – Phil Harling, Mark Hilton, Catherine McKenna and Mark Shrives – told Hammonds’ management in the summer that the firm’s financial results in 2003-04 were “extremely disappointing”.

Profits fell by 13 per cent last year to an average of £272,000 per equity partner; London partners bring in an average of just £37,700 per point compared with £50,700 in Leeds.

Managing partner-elect Peter Crossley told The Lawyer that six months was a long time in the life of a law firm and the partners’ concerns had been addressed. He added he believed that the Leeds partners were satisfied with his explanations.

Crossley declined to comment on the firm’s finances, but said that this financial year had gone well.

Crossley said that management had met with the Leeds partners and responded to their concerns in writing.

One of their key proposals was that lateral hires should not be given guarantees of more than £27,000-£28,000 a point, and that any guarantee should be linked to performance. Crossley said the firm was now implementing this in some cases.

The Leeds partners also requested that no new offices be opened in the next 12 months. Crossley told The Lawyer: “I’d be utterly amazed if there’s any plan to open new offices.”

However, management did not accept the suggestion that the London weighting of £35,000 be axed.

The Leeds partners also requested that office marketing spend be linked to profitability and implicitly criticised the firm’s decision to spend £80,000 on client entertainment at the Chelsea Flower Show.

“Once partners had an explanation of the nature and the detail and people at the event, they were happy,” said Crossley, adding that London weighting was “no longer an issue”.