Freshfields’ new focus: people and clients

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer‘s firmwide partner conference sought to draw a line under the past year’s strife by tabling new priorities.

The magic circle firm’s co-senior partner Konstantin Mettenheimer told The Lawyer that the two key themes of people and clients will be at the top of the agenda for the coming financial year now that the punishing restructuring, which saw 100 partners culled from the equity, has drawn to a close.

“The future’s bright,” said Mettenheimer. “We now have to concentrate on outward-facing skills – how to better deliver a service to our clients. But also inwardly we have to look at better retention of talent and better coherence within the firm.”

Partner discussion groups highlighted two other topics: the need for better communication and the firm’s international strategy and its economic implications.

The Paris conference was attended by around 350 partners out of 450, including non-equity partners for the first time. The introduction of a salaried partner tier was part of the restructuring intended to kick-start profitability.

The firm’s financial results for 2006-07 were released shortly before the conference, showing a 12 per cent rise in turnover to £987m and a 25 per cent jump in average profit per equity partner, breaking the all-important £1m mark for the first time.

One partner told The Lawyer: “The financial performance certainly helped settle consciences. The partnership feels the most positive it has done in a while.”