Wallace & Partners has had a strong start to 2003 and managing partner Rex Newman is buoyant. This week, the firm has poached two partners from the UK office of mid-size US firm Steptoe & Johnson and it has advised on three big corporate deals since January.
David Judah and Rex Nwakodo joined the firm on 1 April as head of corporate and head of technology respectively. Judah has known Newman for around five years and while Judah, and particularly Nwakodo, have good media and technology experience, the three partners also share a particular business philosophy. “I have always believed in taking a holistic approach to clients' businesses,” says Judah. “There are a lot of lawyers who have a very narrow focus on what they do and I think that's wrong. You need to look at a client's business in the round and perhaps as a corporate lawyer you have a much better opportunity to do that. It's a lot easier to take that approach in a smaller firm.”
Newman says: “We did have a relatively small corporate department of four lawyers. The addition of two heavyweight partners gives us much more depth. If you include the employment lawyers that gives us a team of 10 people and even at Linklaters they sub-divide into teams of about that number.”
Wallace & Partners was established in 1984 from legacy firms dating back to the 1880s and 1920s. For many years the firm had just three partners, and that expanded to six slowly over the past 15 years. “Taking on two new senior partners is a big thing for us,” says Newman.
The firm now has eight partners and 10 associates. It specialises in four key areas – corporate finance, employment, property litigation and commercial property.
The firm has been corporate-led for the past 10 years. Newman's team has brought in corporate clients that have then passed on work to the employment and property departments. The property and employment practices can also be important supporting functions on corporate deals and Newman is hoping the same will apply to the firm's recently acquired technology expertise.
The firm advises a number of proprietors, entrepreneurs and management teams. Newman advised Anthony Moscolo, one of the four brothers who own Toni & Guy, when the hairdressing chain demerged its European and Americas businesses. The firm also represented the management team in the £54m sale of the Dutton-Forshaw Group by Aramis – a joint venture owned by venture capitalist CVC and the Dutton-Forshaw management – to Lloyds TSB.
It also advised Kondar, a new company owned by institutional investor Joseph Lewis and Daniel Levy, managing director of Enic and chairman of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur. It advised the company on its £40.3m recommended cash offer for Enic, the sports and entertainment company that owns interests in a number of other football clubs, including AEK Athens, FC Basel and Glasgow Rangers.
“We've developed a reputation for handling the sort of deals that you don't expect to be handled by a smaller firm,” says Newman. And with firms such as Slaughter and May, Jones Day, Olswang and Eversheds acting on the other side of the firm's most recent deals, Newman's claim has a ring of truth about it.
Turnover is up 23 per cent on the past year to around £3.5m. With the addition of Judah and Nwakodo, Newman is hoping for a further boost, and having acquired a taste for making lateral hires, he is now combing the market for more.