What’s going on at Manches? The Lawyer is having a hard time keeping track of how many heads of department the firm lost this year, and has lost count of the number of partner departures ages ago (although we reckon it’s three group heads and around 12 partners in the last 18 months).
The latest departure is long-time head of employment and former firm supremo Alasdair Simpson. Simpson hasn’t just quit his position as senior partner, which he held since 1982 and only relinquished in February. No, he has really gone. The daddy of them all – Simpson is former hubbie to current chairman Jane Simpson, who is sister to the firm’s head of property, Louis Manches – has at last upped sticks.
Now on paper, Manches’ loss is Addleshaw Goddard‘s gain. Nobody would deny that Simpson (who takes with him partner Jane Amphlett) is a phenomenal biller. He carries a huge reputation in the City as a boardroom negotiator. Some would also say he is a terrific leader and a strong personality, who steered Manches through the recession of the early 1990s and transformed it, mainly via merger, from a 7m GBP turnover outfit practising primarily property law to a full-service firm with a turnover north of 20m GBP.
Others might be less kind about the man seen by many former Manches staff and lawyers as domineering and intimidating. And nobody can deny that partners have been draining from Manches recently at about the same rate as the firm’s profits.
Simpson always said he was “passionate” about Manches. It appears his ardour has cooled. It was always on the cards that he would jump ship once he relinquished power. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to imagine the pain of such a powerful man seeing his ex-wife in his old job. Of course, the fact that average profits are scraping along at 138,000 GBP this year, down from around 200,000 GBP two years ago, may have helped him come to the view that it was time to look after himself. Addleshaws’ average profits this year are 250,000 GBP.
As for Manches (the firm, not the family, although sometimes it’s hard to see the join), well, maybe it’s too glib to see this as the start of a new era, but it’s extraordinarily tempting.
Jane Simpson does things differently from her former husband. She is on record as saying the firm’s culture needs attention, needs to be more inclusive. She’s no slouch in the leadership stakes either, and has the respect of the partners. Profits clearly need to rise – Simpson’s target is 170,000 GBP for the next financial year – but, ironically, maybe the departure of one big biller is just what the firm needs.