White & Black founder and managing partner Phil Riman established his boutique firm in 2007.
He has always been part lawyer, part entrepreneur; at university he established a fine-art business, which he ran for three years before selling it, using the proceeds to train as a lawyer.
His business-focused mindset pervades White & Black, with the majority of partners at the firm having worked in industry. White & Black sets its stall out as offering value for money. It is a lean business, a product of having spent its nascent years operating in the cost-conscious post-crash market. The firm’s office is a converted barn in Oxfordshire.
It has only one secretary and one operations manager, with the rest of staff all fee earning.
White & Black also has a merit-based, all-equity partnership with five members.
Riman terms himself the “fatherly dictator”, assessing partners’ performances, giving equal weight to work done, work won and team contribution. He says he is not out to make a fortune, just a decent living. He invests in his people and the firm’s technology, but that is it: everything else gets ploughed back into the business. As a result White & Black can charge clients around a third of City rivals’ rates.
“I’m very capitalist and I don’t apologise for it,” asserts Riman. “The demands from clients these days are extreme. They want you to respond within minutes with useable advice. Slow turnaround times just don’t cut it.”
When the firm started out it was almost exclusively handling venture capital deals for tech companies. It now has dispute resolution and commercial practices, although both still centre on technology and information and communications technology issues.
Managing partner: Phil Riman
Number of partners: Five
Number of equity partners: Five
Number of lawyers: 10
Number of fee-earners: 15
Number of offices: One
Main practice areas: Corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, technology transactions, venture capital
Clients: Ability Technology Group, Concha y Toro, Focusrite Audio, Immedia Group, Isklar, London Welsh RFC, Netvibes, Photobox, Photoways, Sarenza, Teknos