BLP, RPC and Richards Butler set to join LLP club by May 2006

Berwin Leighton Paisner, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and Richards Butler are gearing up to convert to limited liability partnership (LLP) status by May 2006, The Lawyer can reveal.

The three firms are part of a concerted push to LLP status as firms seek to limit exposure to major negligence claims such as Ernst & Young and Equitable Life.

Only four firms in the top 50 have said that they are not actively considering conversion at this stage – Ince & Co, Olswang, Salans and Simmons & Simmons.

Beachcroft Wansbroughs, Denton Wilde Sapte, Lovells and Norton Rose will vote on conversion in winter 2005 and early 2006, with a view to making the change in 2006 or 2007.

Ince partner David Steward said: “I think it’s, just at the moment, not on our radar.”

The Lawyer has surveyed all of the top UK 50 law firms on what their current stance is on making the change. Of the top 50, 14 firms have already converted to LLP status, with Cobbetts and Hill Dickinson ready to make the shift on 1 November.

While the date has not been definitively set, Addleshaw Goddard is also aiming for conversion on 1 May 2006. Clyde & Co is another of the 23 firms examining the possibilities of conversion.

Legal advice on conversion is often handled in-house, but Allen & Overy (A&O) – which has a well-known partnership law practice under the leadership of Richard Turnor – and Serle Court barrister John Machell have advised several firms.

In May 2004, A&O became the first large international law firm to convert to an LLP, and since then Turnor has been actively marketing his practice to other solicitors.

He said that the risk taken on by a law firm makes limiting liability the best model. However, Turnor said that tax and regulation still complicate conversion for a large international practice. “It’s like stuffing an octopus into a bucket, but it’s doable,” he said.

Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw partnership law partner Richard Linsell said LLPs will also help recruitment.

LLP status among the top 50 law firms

Firm Converted Auditor External Legal Advisors
Addleshaw Goddard Reviewing the issue
Allen & Overy 1 May 2004 Deloitte None
Ashurst Reviewing the issue
Barlow Lyde & Gilbert Reviewing the issue
Beachcroft Wansbroughs Vote planned November 2005
Berwin Leighton Paisner End of 2005 Deloitte Allen & Overy and John Machell of Serle Court
Bird & Bird Reviewing the issue
Burges Salmon 1 May 2004 Deloitte John Machell of Serle Court
Charles Russell 1 May 2005 Deloitte John Machell of Serle Court
Clifford Chance Reviewing the issue
Clyde & Co Intention to convert in May 2007
CMS Cameron McKenna 1 May 2005 Deloitte Allen & Overy and John Machell of Serle Court
Cobbetts 1 November 2005 Deloitte None
Denton Wilde Sapte Vote planned winter 2005
DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary 1 May 2004 Pricewaterhouse-Coopers None
Dundas & Wilson 1 November 2004 Deloitte Wragge & Co
Eversheds 1 May 2003 Grant Thornton None
Field Fisher Waterhouse Reviewing the issue
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Reviewing the issue
Halliwells 1 July 2004 Deloitte Allen & Overy
Hammonds Reviewing the issue
Herbert Smith 1 April 2005 Deloitte None
Hill Dickinson 1 November 2005 Deloitte Allen & Overy
Holman Fenwick & Willan Reviewing the issue
Ince & Co Not considering at present
Irwin Mitchell Reviewing the issue
Lawrence Graham 1 August 2004 Smith & Williamson John Machell of Serle Court
Linklaters Reviewing the issue
Lovells Vote planned January 2006
Macfarlanes Reviewing the issue
McGrigors Reviewing the issue
Nabarro Nathanson Reviewing the issue
Norton Rose Vote planned November 2005
Olswang Not considering at present
Osborne Clarke Reviewing the issue
Pinsent Masons Reviewing the issue
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain 1 May 2006 Baker Tilly None
Richards Butler 1 May 2006 Deloitte None
Salans Not considering at present
Shoosmiths Reviewing the issue
Simmons & Simmons Not considering at present
SJ Berwin 1 June 2005 Deloitte None
Slaughter and May Reviewing the issue
Stephenson Harwood Reviewing the issue
Travers Smith Reviewing the issue
Taylor Wessing Reviewing the issue
Trowers & Hamlins Reviewing the issue
Watson Farley & Williams 1 May 2005 Pricewaterhouse- Coopers None
Withers 1 January 2002 Deloitte Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson in the US
Wragge & Co 1 May 2003 Baker Tilly None

Source: The Lawyer