Stringer Saul’s 13-partner practice, based in Hanover Square in London’s West End, was established in 1977 and has spent the past 26 years building a reputation as a biotech, pharmaceutical and publishing firm.
Bio-pharma still accounts for 35 per cent of turnover, with publishing bringing in another 25 per cent. In March 2003 corporate partner Nigel Gordon advised Bionex Investments on its £4.5m AIM float, the first biotech flotation in Europe for two years.
Beginning life as an intellectual property (IP) firm, it regards its niche focus as a badge of honour. That said, the firm has also diversified. “Our practice is broad, but it isn’t all-encompassing,” says Allistair Booth, IP partner and joint marketing partner. With 24 fee-earners, Booth admits that you cannot do everything. “Our practice is built around the needs of our clients,” he continues. “Our clients need a strong corporate practice [and] very strong and specific IP advice.”
Staff turnover is reasonably stable, but is not without its upheavals. After the shock departure of managing partner Diana Sternfield in 2001 (she had been at the firm for more than 20 years) to Willoughby & Partners, it also lost joint head of property Bill Harrup to Stallards and head of dispute resolution Martin Russell (now in Australia) within the last 18 months.
All have since been replaced: Norman Ziman became managing partner, having been with the firm since 1996; Justin Ede joined from Nabarro Nathanson in May 2002 to become head of dispute resolution; and David Connick, formerly a partner with Jeffrey Green Russell, joined the commercial property department in May this year.
Property is a target for growth. It accounts for 11 per cent of turnover and was strengthened with the appointment of retail specialist Nicky Kravitz as a partner in July from Finers Stephens Innocent. Another key recruit was Paul Ranson, who joined as a consultant in April 2002. He was formerly head of healthcare at Simmons & Simmons and also has in-house experience gained at SmithKline (now GlaxoSmithKline).
“Paul Ranson’s arrival very much highlights the expansion of the practice. He’s the best in the business. We signed him up within 10 days of him becoming available, gobsmacked that anyone would let him go,” says Booth.
The new recruits will go some way to helping the firm achieve its target of increasing turnover to £13.5m by 2008 and increasing fee-earners to 56. The short-term growth strategy is altogether more conservative. This year’s £5m is the same as last year, and despite merger opportunities, the firm is keen to remain as it is.
“We thought if we ever got much above 25 partners, we’d have difficulty maintaining our culture. There’s pressure to gain critical mass, but it’s the difference between the deli or being Sainsbury’s, or the corner shop that’s trying to be Sainsbury’s. We don’t think there’s a future for the 25-partner-plus firm that tries to sell itself as a Clifford Chance… You need to be smart about where and how you’re positioned,” says Booth.
|Managing partner||Norman Ziman|
|Total number of partners||13|
|Total number of lawyers||24 (including consultants)|
|Main practice areas||Corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, employment, intellectual property, property and tax|
|Key clients||Baltimore Technologies, Skyepharma and Wolters Kluwer|
|Number of offices||One|