Steve Hoare on the month in management:

  • Magic circle’s top tiers undergo big changes
  • The Lawyer Career Report pinpoints DLA Piper as the king of lateral hirers
  • Fourteen ex-Hammonds partners bite back
  • Lovells reviews lockstep…again

Changes at the top for magic circle

It has been all change in the management of the magic circle recently. Following David Childs’ coronation as managing partner of Clifford Chance at the beginning of April, he has been busy putting his senior management team in place.

Acquisition finance partner Mark Stewart became head of the powerful London banking practice after Tim Plews stood down from the role. Stewart’s reputation for borrower finance work within Clifford Chance’s traditionally lender-based banking group underlines the growing importance of the private equity market to the financing community.

Nick Sherwin took over from Robin Tremaine as London head of tax, while another tax partner, David Harkness, was named executive financial partner. Chris Perrin will be re-elected as the firm’s general counsel, while Childs abolished his previous role of chief operating officer, which he reckons he can continue to handle himself.

While Childs anointed his team, Allen & Overy had real elections, with more than one candidate. The firm got rid of its previous management board en masse, with only one member re-elected.

That person, Amsterdam corporate partner Sietze Hepkema, is now the only board member based outside London. Partners from Belgium, Paris, Germany and the US failed to get the votes.

The four new members are litigation specialist Tim House, corporate partner Alan Paul, banking partner Ian Powell and international capital markets partner Boyan Wells.

Projects partners Anne Baldock and Jonathan Brayne and Brussels managing partner Wim Dejonghe were dropped from the board after standing for re-election.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer prefers the Childs approach. The only difference is that it’s got two senior partners. Kostantin Mettenheimer and Guy Morton have installed Cologne partner Klaus Beucher as joint head of global IP and IT with London partner Avril Martindale.

The firm’s last management team of managing director Kirk Stephenson and chief executive Hugh Crisp has been disbanded, with US partner Ted Burke taking on both their roles.

Crisp will continue as a partner at the firm, but part time. It is understood that he will be focusing on HR issues – in other words, he will be holding the hands of those who are being axed.

Meanhwile, Linklaters is preparing itself for a senior partner election full of political intrigue. Corporate rainmaker David Cheyne has long been regarded as the favourite, but outside his department he does not engender much loyalty.

The ‘stop Cheyne’ task lies with banking and restructuring partner Robert Elliott and/or head of finance Giles White, with White’s lack of enemies perhaps being the single biggest factor needed for victory. He is also good chums with Tony Angel, whose word is law nowadays at Linklaters.

DLA Piper tops lateral hires table

The Lawyer’s inaugural Career Report was released just before firms’ partnership promotions were announced. The report is the first-ever comparative guide to partnership prospects at the UK’s top 100 firms.

DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary was confirmed as the king of lateral hirers with 123 in three years. The shock was just how many more this was than at its nearest rivals. Taylor Wessing was a surprise second with 40 laterals. Surprisingly DLA Piper was also the biggest promoter outside the magic circle.

Simmons & Simmons and Bird & Bird made surprise appearances in the top 10 lateral hirers, while Clarke Willmott, Salans and Hammonds followed them.

More useful for the average associate (or hiring partner) were the gems of information on practice areas. For example, Allen & Overy (A&O) has not made up an internal real estate associate in the last three years. Clifford Chance has made up only one real estate partner in London, as has Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, but Linklaters has made up five.

Your best bets for partnership in a property department are probably DLA Piper, Nabarro Nathanson, SJ Berwin or Wragge & Co.

Things are even grimmer in IP: A&O, Clifford Chance and Norton Rose have not made up an IP associate in three years. Herbert Smith has only made up one. It seems the biggest names in IP will continue to dominate. Bird & Bird promoted seven IP lawyers, Bristows elevated five, Field Fisher Waterhouse promoted three IP/IT associates and Taylor Wessing made up seven associates.

Hammonds in face-off with ex-partners

Hammonds‘ management issues spread way bey-ond its own partnership. As if it was not hard enough managing his own staff, Hammonds managing partner Peter Crossley still has to deal with the firm’s former partners.

Of course it does not help when you ask them for £3m for the repayment of overdrawings, as well as repayments for the year previous to that. Most partners expect… ahem… hope for some money back when they leave a firm.

Hammonds is a peculiar beast, though. Fourteen former partners have instructed Addleshaw Goddard partnership expert Richard Linsell to prepare the ground for a claim against the firm.

Crossley also told The Lawyer that the firm was not tying its partners to a second lock-in, which could pave the way for an exodus.

Lovells adopts a gentle touch

Lovells has had its own problems with departing partners, falling profit and claims from clients in recent times, but nothing quite on a Hammonds scale. It may have lost a private equity team here or the odd IP partner there, but none of them have threatened to sue as yet.

As such, its methods are more gentle. The firm’s favourite management tool is its lockstep. The firm finally completed a 14-month review of its lockstep in January, but this was not quite enough and further changes were made in April. The initial review concluded that partners could move down the lockstep ladder, which runs from 24 points to 60.

This latest tweak increases entry level points to 30. While the firm denied it was a defensive measure aimed at stemming a wave of departures, it will give junior partners a timely pay rise. A degree of flexibility was also introduced at the top of lockstep. No, it has not been driven by the departures, but to provide “the same flexibility as some of [the firm’s] competitors”, says senior partner John Young Not the ones poaching the firm’s partners then?

Monthly column Regional: 1 May The bar: 8 May In-house: 15 May Management: 22 May