Slaughter and May has initiated a practice group focusing on new economy work in an extraordinary departure from the firm’s traditional approach of avoiding a sector-based structure.
For the first time, corporate partners with a particular interest in new economy work will be co-located with intellectual property (IP) specialists to form a technology, media and telecoms (TMT) and IP group. The aim of the seven partners is to service TMT clients from within a single group and to show a focus on the sector.
Corporate and commercial partner William Underhill, who co-heads the group with IP partner Nigel Swycher, says: “We wanted to put together with our successful IP/IT group commercial lawyers able to provide a complete service in this sector and who have issues that cross over corporate, commercial, IP and IT. Technology clients looking for lawyers may think they need a specialist firm. They don’t. They need top-class lawyers who can speak their language.”
Swycher believes the step will challenge assumptions about the firm, particularly among smaller companies. “Myths exist about Slaughter and May being traditional and unresponsive. Moves such as this help to dispel that idea,” he says. “We’re willing and able to act for smaller companies and there’s a great deal of value in using our experience.”
Underhill says: “This doesn’t diminish our generalist approach. We’ll be providing a full range of company and commercial advice, but focused on this type of client.”
Slaughters is targeting three types of client: old economy clients moving into the new economy, such as existing client Blue Circle, which recently launched business-to-business exchange e-cement.com; technology-based clients such as Psion, which the firm advises on corporate matters; and smaller companies at various stages in their development, such as existing client Cambridge Positioning Systems.
There are no plans to take equity in lieu of fees, but the firm claims to use flexible fee arrangements.
The other partners involved are corporate and commercial partners Jeff Triggs, David Wittmann, and Richard Levitt, and IP partners Chris Hickson and Susie Middlemiss.