Hewitson Becke + Shaw

Recruitment is the name of the game at Hewitson Becke + Shaw. The current figure of 51 partners and 150 fee-earners is set to rise by at least 20 per cent, most likely 50 per cent, in the year ahead.`Managing partner Alan Brett refers to a “tidying up” exercise which has seen the loss of Neil Ackerman and Ian Craig to the London office of US firm Dorsey & Whitney, the recruitment of John Berman from the legal department of financial services company the Hospital Savings Association to head-up intellectual property (IP) and a rejuvenation of management. The latest business plan, brainstormed over food and wine, was approved as drawn by the new team, which now comprises lawyers predominantly in their 30s and 40s. “We need to be nimble; the last thing we want is to be entrenched,” explains Brett. He is keen that Hewitsons is seen as a vibrant firm where fresh talent is encouraged to speak out.`A new Oxford office is planned this year to join the existing ones in Cambridge and Northampton, with the smaller Saffron Walden branch being amalgamated into Cambridge.`The firm has experienced a number of location changes since its creation in 1989, when it was launched via the merger of Wilde Hewitson & Shaw and Becke Phipps. Brett says that profits are up by 35 per cent on last year, and the firm ranked 82nd in last year's The Lawyer 100 survey, with average profits per partner of £143,000. With this year's increase, partners can expect to be taking home £193,500 this time round, which Brett believes leaves the firm in a healthy state and ready for expansion.`”More and more of our work is with North American companies,” says Brett. “Our strategy is honed in on enhancing that. Both Oxford and Cambridge are high profile as far as the technology industry in the US is concerned. The advantage of technology work is that you can do it on both sides of the Atlantic.”`Property work for US firms moving to the UK is also increasing. Law Exchange International membership has provided referrals in both Europe and the US. Back home, IP is high on the agenda, with a team from an as yet unnamed firm apparently interested in joining.`Clients include electronic publisher Adhoc Publishing, the University of Cambridge, and a range of biotechnology firms. Partner David Browne has just handled a £25m management buyout (MBO) for the Perry Group. Partner and head of corporate and technology John Dicks says: “I've recently done a round of funding for SpiroGen, a gene-targeting technology company. They were raising about £1m and we acted for Cambridge Research Bioventures, backed by CRIL and RCT. Another is a convertible note issue for Kamelian, raising £5.2m from Goldman Sachs.” He comments on the surprising amount of funding work for growing companies, especially considering the apparent slowdown in the economy. Four holders of the Masters of Business Administration degree in the team have also opened up new avenues. “Management consultancy seems to be a potential growth area,” says Brett. “It's an interesting sideline that we're happy to expand.”`Brett does not consider local-based Mills & Reeve or Eversheds as competition due to their differing strategies: Hewitsons' attention is focused on the South West and London. He seemed unaware, or at least unconcerned, that Mills & Reeve also has big plans for its role in the US technology market.