The Lawyer Management: Bingham McCutchen

Peter Lewis, senior director of administration, Europe and Asia offices


Peter Lewis is the senior director of administration for Bingham McCutchen’s offices in Europe and Asia. He joined the firm from Dechert in September 2011. Prior to entering the legal market, Lewis was an RAF officer for nearly 23 years, retiring with rank of group captain.

Do you think UK associates have a stereotyped view of US firms?

If they were to believe everything they read in certain parts of the legal media they probably would and it might not be a wholly favourable or indeed accurate picture. I’m not sure you can or should generalise in this way and should instead identify the style and culture of each firm. US firms are by no means all the same. In Bingham’s case I like to think they’d find a firm with a record of valuing its people, their diversity and the differing cultures from which they are drawn.

What are the main challenges for a US firm operating in London?

There’s nothing especially new or novel about a US law firm in London. For that reason, I’m not sure — other than for those entering the London market for the first time — that the challenges are very different from those facing an established UK firm. Bingham celebrates 40 years in London this year and, while it opened here to meet one specific but significant client need, its success since has relied on building client confidence and credibility, thereby establishing its brand and growing its reputation, notably in cross-border financial restructuring. It seems to me that attaining and retaining those fundamentals, supported by a sound business model, are the challenges that face all firms, whatever their origin.

Has there ever been a problem at work that’s surprised you?

It’s rarely the nature of the problem itself that’s surprising but more often how difficult it can be to solve what seems at the outset to be such a relatively straightforward issue. People’s ‘infinite variety’ undoubtedly plays its part.

What’s your favourite part of the day?

Although I enjoy my job a great deal, it has be when I eventually head home.

If you weren’t managing Bingham’s London office, what else would you be doing?

There are times in my life when I’d have wanted my reply to be either flying fighter planes or practising law. Now I think my honest answer has to be ‘more fly fishing’.

What are the most significant external issues that affect your role?

Among them are heightened competition, increasing globalisation and meeting the time zone challenges, adapting to the changes needed in how law firms are being managed and keeping ahead of the curve. But the issues that bother me the most are the ones we don’t yet know about or haven’t yet recognised.

What problem would you most like technology to solve?

I had a really good answer for this but I can’t remember it so I’ll opt for anything that can cure the apparent failing accuracy of my memory.

What is the most important lesson your role has taught you?

The same lesson as in all the roles I’ve undertaken – the importance and significance of moral courage: trying to do and say the right thing and not shirking from something just because it might be awkward or difficult. In my experience it’s a solid cure to all sorts of people management-related ailments.

How do you see the legal market of the future?

I believe it will continue to change and consolidate. With that change and consolidation will come a growing need to stay relevant and aligned to our clients’ needs; to innovate; and to demonstrate expertise and attendant value.

On the administrative side we shall need to continue to redefine how we operate to support that change, of which our recent decision to centralise a number of our support activities in a global services centre is but one example.

Firm facts:

Global lawyers: 1,016

Global partners: 421

UK lawyers: 49

UK partners: 21

Financials (2011)

London revenue: $49m (£31m)

Firmwide revenue: $868.5m

Firmwide revenue per

partner: $2.06m

Firmwide revenue per

lawyer: $855,000

Tall task

You wouldn’t be far wrong if you were to assume that Lewis has a rather long and complicated job spec.

Responsible for the everyday operational and administrative functioning of Bingham’s offices in Europe and Asia, he has to ensure lawyers get the ‘optimum level of support’ they require to meet clients’ needs while simultaneously fulfilling his role as a member of the firm’s senior director group.


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