A little under 10 years ago the half-dozen partners of West End firm Wallace were pondering their options. A merger – US or City – was seriously considered.
“There was a time when I was flattered by some of the approaches,” admits long-time managing partner Rex Newman. “What we quickly found out was that the grass was never greener.”
What Newman discovered when he looked under the bonnets of the firms sniffing around his small but successful operation was that profit figures were not always what they seemed. More importantly, a merger that did not disrupt the culture Wallace holds sacrosanct would be virtually impossible.
So the firm decided to look for lateral hires for the first time since it came into existence in its present form in the early 1980s. It has been a successful policy, with five laterals joining since 2003 – a time span that has seen both partner headcount and firm turnover more than double.
Insolvency litigator Michael Clinch joined from Harbottle & Lewis last year, after the firm realised it was referring work that could be done in-house. The next area for growth is likely to be private client, but Newman insists that there is no hurry when it comes to recruitment. That said, the growth in the firm is undeniable. The past 12 months have been the best ever for the Wallace corporate team, with turnover up by 23 per cent – a major contributor to the 17 per cent uptick in firmwide revenue.
Revenue is distributed evenly between the three largest areas – corporate, real estate and litigation – with the firm’s much-touted leasehold enfranchisement practice spanning the latter two.
But Newman says the firm’s solid performance through the downturn was a result of the fact that it has never been overly focused.
“We’ve driven the business through complementary niche areas,” he explains. “We don’t choose to be a full-service firm, but we’d never have a single niche.”
Managing partner: Rex Newman
Number of partners: 13
Number of equity partners: Six
Number of lawyers: 30
Number of fee-earners: 30
Main practice areas: Commercial litigation, commercial property, corporate, employment, IP
Key clients: Americas Cup Event Authority, Enic, Freshwater Hays, Models 1, Paramount Restaurants