For a man who, according to the rumour mill, has “gone to ground” and is “a broken man”, Nick Sinfield seems in remarkably good spirits.
The new managing director of Davies Arnold Cooper points out that in the previous week he gave a dozen press briefings, travelled to Manchester to address the whole firm there, and spoke to at least 70 fee earners individually.
“If you call that inactive, God knows how much I’d be doing in a busy week. I’d be pretty knackered!” he says.
The reason for all this activity, and the rumours, were the huge upheavals taking place at the firm. Last week The Lawyer revealed that around 90 staff would lose their jobs when Davies Arnold Cooper closes its Manchester corporate department of 19 fee earners, and makes 14 London lawyers redundant.
His new role, he says, will be to provide leadership, develop strategy and implement it. It is largely an external-facing role” he says.
But he adds that he will also be involved in “coaching staff and encouraging them to focus on what they are good at”.
But how encouraged do the firm’s staff feel after the recent bloodletting? The reaction among those remaining at the firm is, he says, “very positive. They think its a bold statement”, but “they do look at it on a very personal level, because they know people who aren’t staying and that causes them personal distress.”
Even some of the departing corporate team in Manchester told him it was the right decision, Sinfield says, because they will be “better cared for” in a firm that specialises in their work. But it will not be possible to find a home for about 50 support staff, and he concedes that “the more junior staff were less generous in their views”.
He stresses that no further cuts are planned, and that the staff remaining should feel more secure in their jobs than before, because the cuts have left the firm with clear, achievable aims.
He illustrates these points with obscure sporting metaphors, drawing especially on his enthusiasm – while at school and studying law at University College, London – for rowing. “I think we’ve dropped to a couple of lanes.” Sorry? “I think we’ve dropped from a six-lane course to a two-lane course, so we don’t have to worry about all of the other boats.”
In going back to its core business of insurance litigation and property and banking, Sinfield says Davies Arnold Cooper has made a decision that other less bold firms will have forced upon them. “We are out of the starting blocks and halfway up the track.”
The firm will now be run as a business, he says, hence his title of managing director rather than managing partner. Using a further sporting reference, he believes the new three-man management team (himself, operations director David Hertzell, and finance director Andrew Lyburn) “will be able to turn on a sixpence”.
With four children aged four, five, six and eight (“we rattled them off”) he has little time for sport outside these frequent analogies. He says: “I go to the gym or at least I have membership of a gym!”
But despite this sedentary lifestyle, and rumours to the contrary, Sinfield is very much alive and well.
Davies Arnold Cooper