Private client’s edgy new look

OC gives private client practice a kick up the cut-glass as ‘traditional’ team hits the road

Private client work has taken some stick over the years, not always seen as the sexiest of practice areas. Traditionally focused on wills, agriculture and landed estates, it is hard to see where the practice would fit into a firm poised to deal with global, corporate powerhouses.

This is the dilemma Osborne Clarke (OC) has been grappling with in recent months. Its solution? To give the practice a radical shake-up, jettisoning its Bristol-based team and looking to recruit fresh faces with a more commercial approach.

The firm said the “traditional private client services” team’s imminent exit is the result of a mutual decision. Its two partners, practice head Mark Woodward and Robert Drewett, have found roles just down the road at Bond Dickinson’s Bristol office – with an unspecified number of team members expected to follow.

OC’s head of advisory work, Paul Matthews, says the process is part of a plan to advise “international high-net-worth individuals who are likely to also instruct us on their broader commercial matters – it’s a strategy several City firms have followed”.

Perhaps OC has been inspired by rivals such as Taylor Wessing, which has given its private client offering an entrepreneurial, techy slant. OC is certainly pushing the TMT side of its business, having just last week launched a New York office focused on the booming sector.

It may be wise. There is plenty of appetite for private client lawyers.

“A few silver circle-type firms have said that if we come across a top private client lawyer or team they’d take a look,” says a recruiter.