Next month the market will say farewell to Shadbolt, a £10.6m firm that buckled under the weight of clients demanding more resources, more services and more international reach. We broke the news that Shadbolt was in merger talks with Clydes last year. As we said, the deal summed up how perilous the current environment is for firms that are “not big enough, strong enough or well-known enough”.
So it was apparent for some time that the construction and infrastructure-focused firm was increasingly trailing in the wake of its larger rivals. With fee income dwindling too, a rescue deal was always going to be on the cards. But what wasn’t clear back then was how divided and arguably dysfunctional the partnership truly was.
Now, with the Clydes deal looming, the truth is out. Only around two-thirds of Shadbolt’s 18 partners are joining the larger firm, boosting its revenue by around £8m. Another chunk – including managing partner Helen Boddy – is off to Stevens & Bolton in Guildford. Meanwhile, other partners are heading off to either launch their own firm, Sheridan Gold, or join local outfits.
Still, at least they all seem happy about it.
Boddy is “delighted”; Richard Baxter, managing partner at Stevens & Bolton, is “delighted”; John Morris, Clydes head of construction, is… “delighted”; Liz Jenkins, a soon-to-be Clydes partner, is not delighted – but she is “very excited”.
How sweet that such a fractious deal can leave all the participants feeling so rosy. Let’s hope for Clydes’ sake it’s chosen for itself the high-performing lawyers, those able to bridge the significant gap between the two firms’ revenue per lawyer (RPL) figures. According to last year’s The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report, Clydes’ average RPL in 2008-09 was £358,500 and Shadbolt’s was £208,000.
As for Clydes, it can’t stop growing. This latest move follows expansion in Saudi Arabia, India and the US.
If ever there was a firm that has stormed it through the recession, it is Clydes.