Growing confidence

Addleshaw Goddard has established itself as one of the UK’s biggest national firms. Now it has even loftier ambitions

Name: Mark Jones
Firm: Addleshaw Goddard
Title: Managing partner
Firm turnover: £176.7m
Total number of lawyers: 621
Mark Jones’s CV
Education: Trinity Hall, Cambridge, law degree
Work history:
1977-79: Trainee, Booth & Co
1979-83: Associate, Booth & Co
1983: Partner, Booth & Co
1988-92: Head of IP, Booth & Co
1992-97: Managing partner, Booth & Co
1997-2003: Managing partner, Addleshaw Booth & Co
2003-present: Managing partner, Addleshaw Goddard

Becoming a national firm sitting safely in the UK’s top 15 firms is the number one priority for Addleshaw Goddard. And as a result of this ambitious goal, anything – including another merger – is possible.

Although the firm has moved closer to its target in recent years as a result of an aggressive growth strategy, Addleshaws has still fallen short by one place this year, dropping to sixteenth in The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report 2007.

It is a disappointing drop from being ranked fifteenth in 2006, but managing partner Mark Jones is confident about the firm’s future. Jones claims to have a well-structured and ambitious plan for re-entering the top 15, which could well include another merger in the next decade.

Earlier this year (25 June) The Lawyer reported on Addleshaws’ European network, which includes German firm Görg, Italy’s Negri-Clementi Toffoletto Montironi & Soci and Spanish firm Garrigues.

“The idea is to be able to serve our clients globally and in the practice areas they need. To do this we need to have a global setup. The European network works very well and we think this is the best structure for Addleshaws,” Jones explains.

Jones adds that the firm does not aim to become high profile in a global sense, with offices in numerous jurisdictions. The emphasis is on maintaining a strong national presence and not compromising its reputation by spreading itself too thin.

“We have the right model for us. There is no need to set up offices worldwide because it wouldn’t be beneficial,” Jones stresses. “Our strategy has been to build up in our three locations in the UK and make sure we can strengthen our capabilities worldwide. This strategy has been a success for us.”

Addleshaws is not only building up strength geographically, but also in terms of its practice groups.

Last month (6 August) The Lawyer reported on the firm’s launch of its class action group, headed by litigation partner John Kelleher, in response to increased class actions in the UK. The aim is to establish a cross-disciplinary team by the end of 2007.

While the firm is currently expanding its practice capabilities, it is also open to expansion via merger.

“The firm’s grown through mergers and this has proven to be very successful for us. There are no plans to seek a merger right now, but it’s definitely something the firm would consider again,” Jones says.

Indeed, Addleshaws has a rich history of merger, which began with the tie-up of Manchester-based Addleshaw Latham & Sons and Leeds-based Booth & Co in 1997. The resulting firm, Addleshaw Booth, which spanned two prominent cities in the North, was well placed to become a top regional firm.

Not content with the threat of being potentially marginalised in the regions, Addleshaw Booth sought out City firm Theodore Goddard for a further combination in 2003. As managing partner at Addleshaw Booth & Co since 1992 and Addleshaw Booth since 1997, Jones took up this post at the helm of the newly merged firm.

“Both mergers worked very well for us,” Jones enthuses. “We became a very strong regional firm and with the merger in 2003 we became a firm with an excellent national presence. These kind of tie-ups can be very difficult and teething problems can be difficult, but the two firms combined very well in 2003.”

Jones argues that the combined firm has worked hard to create and maintain a unified culture across all three cities. However, post-merger not everyone decided to stick around, with the majority of legacy Theodore Goddard partners jumping ship.

In particular, The Lawyer reported in 2003 (30 April) that key Theodore Goddard finance partners Michael Black and Jayesh Patel were leaving along with five fee-earners to join Denton Wilde Sapte. A further six partners left to join Salans in the same month.

But it was the departure of iconic Theodore Goddard chairman Paddy Grafton-Green and four media partners to The Simkins Partnership in January 2006 that signified the end of an era for the legacy Theodore Goddard partners.

“The merger wasn’t right for everyone,” Jones admits. “You have to expect that some people won’t want to be part of the new entity, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t agree with the merger in principle.

“Our former head of non-contentious IP Lesley Hall voted for the merger, but then moved on to Farrer & Co in 2003.”

Despite a spate of departures post-merger, Jones is as confident as ever about the benefits of finding the right partner firm to join forces with.

Given his confidence, are there high hopes for further growth via merger?”I can’t rule anything out of course, and this strategy has worked very well so far,” Jones says. “The most important thing for Addleshaw Goddard is making sure all offices are connected culturally and we continue to serve our customers well.”