Edwards Angell excels in the City with revenue boom and recruitment drive

US firm on track to mirror its core domestic strengths at London outpost.

Laurence Harris
Laurence Harris

This year’s US law firm financial reporting season is yet to get into gear, but already there are indications that one firm at least will post some belting results for 2010.

Well, to be more precise, one office within a US firm’s network. The London office of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, a firm that bizarrely has a 14 January financial year-end, was last week cracking the whip on the final bills in an attempt to get as much cash through the door as possible.

But even as its year drew to a close at the tail-end of last week, London managing partner ­Laurence Harris was confidently predicting the previous 12 months will have been a record for his firm’s City outpost.

“We expect to be at least 30 per cent up on revenue in London,” Harris told The Lawyer last week. (Firmwide figures were also not yet available).

A bump of 30 per cent or more without the benefit of a merger is hard to argue with, but if you are looking for pointers as to how EdwardsAngell has achieved this, it is worth checking out the firm’s recent hiring record.

Firmwide, it has brought in 12 partners in the past 12 months. Five of those were in London, the most recent being Niall McAlister, a corporate partner who joined this month from CMS Cameron McKenna.

McAlister’s hire follows those of IP specialist Ben Goodger from Rouse Legal, former head of Squire Sanders & Dempsey’s London ­litigation practice Rod Cowper and Dewey & LeBoeuf insurance ­partner Francis Mackie.

The firm also hired private equity senior associate Shawn Atkinson from Kirkland & Ellis as a partner on 1 March. Atkinson’s arrival, ­coupled with that of corporate life sciences specialist McAlister, helped bolster the private equity team at Edwards Angell that was launched two years ago during one of the worst periods for deal ­activity in living memory with the hire of Campbell Hooper & Co partner David Ramm.

“It was tough in 2008,” comments Harris. “But more recently David’s team has been busy on a number of deals for clients such
as Citibank and Carlyle.”

Harris was formerly managing partner at UK firm Kendall Freeman, the outfit formed in 2003 when 13 partners broke away from DJ Freeman to join Olswang.

Harris’s firm linked up with Edwards Angell on 1 January 2008, two years before transatlantic mergers became an almost daily event.

He says the new recruits are part of a broader plan to mirror the firm’s core strengths on the other side of the Atlantic.

“At the time of the merger we wrote a two-year plan for London that involved us bringing in core US areas that we didn’t have here, such as IP, private equity and ­venture capital,” Harris says. “We’re now into our second two-year plan, which is likely to see us strengthen several of our existing groups.”

So while the initial focus of Edwards Angell in London was to build out from its nascent UK insurance and litigation niches – a strategy best illustrated by the 2008 hire of a 16-person IP team from Field Fisher Waterhouse headed by John Olsen – the firm is now turning its attention to beefing up those areas and complementing them with associated practices, such as finance.

“We don’t have a specialist finance partner at the moment and we’re also looking for opportunities to strengthen those areas we’re already known for, such as ­insurance and litigation,” reveals Harris. “That said, we don’t plan to start any new practice areas such as real estate.”

Later this year The Lawyer’s annual top 30 US firms in London ranking will reveal whether Edwards Angell’s recruitment push has been enough to secure it a place among the City’s US ­revenue leaders for the first time.