Regional Focus: Newcastle

Far and away the most exciting news stories to come out of Newcastle recently have surrounded Watson Burton. Once a relative minnow, the firm has had a meteoric rise in recent years, opening offices in Leeds and London and recording blockbusting average profit per equity partner (PEP) of £712,000 at the end of the last financial year.

But last month (September) the legal world was shocked by the news that the firm’s senior partner, Andrew Hoyle, had been ousted in a coup by the partnership.

Dickinson Dees
Firmwide turnover: £47.8m
Total partners: 65
Total lawyers: 203
Newcastle trainees: 28

Firmwide turnover: £323m
Total partners: 329
Total lawyers: 1448
Newcastle trainees: 13

Ward Hadaway
Firmwide turnover: £21.6m
Total partners: 54
Total lawyers: 116
Newcastle trainees: 20

Watson Burton
Firmwide turnover: £22.9m
Total partners: 40
Total lawyers: 88
Newcastle trainees: 15

As the best-paid lawyer in Newcastle – his £850,000 at financial year-end was even better than the PEP at Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – Hoyle had been key to the firm’s rise to prominence.

Hoyle, who has been senior partner for a decade, guided the firm through its most ambitious period, overseeing the opening of a Leeds office in 2004 and a London office in July this year, and guiding profit sky high.

Although the firm has refused to comment, educated speculation concludes that the pace of change was simply too fast for the firm’s small partnership and the coup was an effort to regain control of what it saw as a runaway train. The coup was led by head of construction Rob Langley, who was announced as the new senior partner a week later.

Elsewhere in the city, local giant Dickinson Dees took the unusual step of hiring a barrister. Ian Kennerley, who had been a member of Newcastle’s Broad Chare Chambers since 1983, joined the firm’s family law team, bringing the number of lawyers to seven.

Name: Michelle Kennedy
Law firm: Dickinson Dees
University: Sheffield
Degree: Law
Seat(s): Litigation/employment; intellectual property; commercial property

Where are you originally from?

Why did you choose to join Dickinson Dees?
I wanted to work in a top-class firm with great quality work and training, as well as friendly and approachable people and definitely without the hassle of being in London.

What does your typical day involve?
I arrive at around 8.15am and work on a wide variety of tasks, including speaking to clients, attending client meetings with my supervisor, drafting letters, contracts and terms and conditions. I might have a lunchtime training session or the opportunity to take part in business development for the firm.

What’s the most exciting deal/case you’ve worked on and why?
I’ve been involved in the sale of a multimillion-pound company, reviewing contracts, including sale and service agreements, and compiled reports on the information which formed part of the final report to the purchaser.

What time do you usually leave the office?
Between 5.30pm and 6.30pm most days.

What’s the best thing about working in Newcastle?
The people with whom, I work and Newcastle itself. The city has a really friendly vibe with loads of great bars, clubs and restaurants.

What’s your favourite pub/bar in Newcastle?
Stereo – it’s just up the road from the office and the official meeting place at 5pm on a Friday night for all the trainees.

How much does a pint of beer/glass of wine cost in Newcastle?
About £3.00 for a glass of wine, £2.60 for a pint.

Where do you live?
I live in Jesmond, north of the centre.

How long does it take you to get to work?
About 15 minutes on foot.