The Leader Column

As Helen Power reports in this week's issue, Landwell is facing some difficult decisions. In the spirit of free enquiry, here are some questions for the Landwell management.
1. Are you entirely obsessed with form over content? Instead of Birtist management theories, diagrams, meetings, benchmarking and the like, who's actually going out and getting the work? What's more, the strategy document reads like it was written by a parrot that talks in set phrases. What, for example, is the “corporate transformation and transactions” group as opposed to the M&A group? (We asked around; nobody seemed to know.) And instead of saying: “Profitability needs to be managed upwards,” why not just say: “We need to be more profitable.” What's wrong with plain English?
2. So you're looking for merger with a UK firm. Precisely why would a UK firm want to merge with Landwell? You don't have the profits, you don't have the mass, you don't have the contacts. The fact that it has taken you nearly a year to hire two equity partners may tell you something.
3. You think the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) management is committed to Landwell? How can you convince your own lawyers of that when PwC has hived off the consulting arm as well as the US restructuring arm?
4. Why, out of three equity partners in the UK, is only one a fee-earner? How does this square with the cost-cutting and handful of redundancies within Landwell? Should your cost structure not be entirely revised, given that the three partners each earn an average of half a million?
5. Why are the firm's lawyers scattered over several buildings? How can you build a culture like that? Is it not the case that any identity you try to create will now be born too late?
6. Yes, the London market is competitive. But why have so few parts of the UK business garnered so few referrals from PwC? You talk about leveraging internal contacts. You've had years to build up Landwell in conjunction with the largest professional services firm in the world. KLegal has managed to grow to the same size in half the time, recruit some good names and pull off a UK merger – all in three years.
7. Are you deluded about the corporate market? In what sense can Landwell become a market leader in M&A “by reputation or by number of deals, or at least have significant competitive advantage within the next two or three years”?
8. At what point do you just give up?