Talking to Kevin Gold, managing partner at Mishcon de Reya, is a disconcerting experience. While he exudes an aura of reassurance and calm, the brusque manner in which he fields the numerous phonecalls that pepper our conversation reveal that he takes a no-nonsense approach to running one of the UK’s best-known law firms.
These contrasting qualities will doubtless serve Gold well in the coming weeks, as he works to integrate media and entertainment firm Eatons into the existing practice. A merger means expansion, and once the firms are integrated on 10 October Eatons will ostensibly be bolted onto Mishcon’s company and commercial department.
But the merger doesn’t mean that Mishcons will suddenly balloon out of all proportion, as Eatons houses just six partners. This is good news for Gold, who doesn’t subscribe to the old adage of big being beautiful. “I’d like the firm to become the most skilled and the most fun. Size doesn’t matter from our point of view, and pure money can’t be the driver in the short term,” he says.
It is ironic that Gold finds himself in the position of managing a merger, as he began his career at Mishcons in a similar position. He and a number of colleagues were incorporated into the firm after its merger with Bayer Rosin in 1995.
Gold was instrumental in establishing Bayer Rosin, which was a bold move at the time as he was halfway through his training at Lovells White & King, now Lovells.
He says: “I met a couple of guys who’d set up a firm of their own and were trading under the name of Dunleavy Rosin. Allen Rosin and I met socially and suggested I join them.”
With the addition of Martin Bayer from the now defunct Birkbeck Montague in the mid-1980s, Bayer Rosin was formed and subsequently evolved into a small, but by no means insignificant, corporate-based firm.
He says: “At the time I found the formality of the City a bit stifling – a smaller, more user-friendly kind of firm suited my persona a bit more.”
But tragedy soon struck. Allen Rosin, one of the main driving forces behind the firm, was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 44 and did not survive surgery. Gold was left in a painful and difficult situation.
He recounts:”Myself and a couple of partners were left with a reasonably substantial practice that, in a sense, was leaderless. We decided that it may be time to merge with a house with more money to it, and which had other critical masses.”
Hence the move to Mishcons in 1995. But his first experience at Mishcons wasn’t exactly moonlight and roses. “I walked into a minefield,” says Gold. “There was a huge tension in the practice that I was unaware of, and that escalated.”
Within five months of Gold joining the firm, 75 per cent of the commercial department had walked out in response to unwelcome changes to partner remuneration that had been planned by the management.
Quite simply, the firm had to be redefined. While Mishcons had long been known for its involvement in the film industry, this arena was becoming increasingly uneconomic for firms.
Gold says: “We weren’t going to carry on doing loss-making work just to get our names in the titles. We took our traditional copyright expertise within the general area of film and television and started adapting it to both the internet and new technology.”
With the addition of Eatons, the firm is able to bolster its film and entertainment practice which, like the commercial department in 1995, underwent a shakeup two years ago.
Head of media Jonathan Cameron was among five partners who left the firm, along with head of family law Maggie Rae, who left for Clintons (The Lawyer, 17 November).
However, those times are behind the firm now. Gold says: “The essence of being here is that one believes culturally in what we do and one works hard. How do we keep and attract staff? By creating the right vibe. I think that’s a matter of Mishcon’s style.”
Eatons and Mishcons have known each other for some time, but it was three years ago that Gold met with David Glick, Eatons’ highly-rated music and entertainment partner, to discuss the idea of a merger.
Gold says: “We came to the first and principal conclusion that we shared a cultural base and a value system in how the firm should react. It made sense, and so the merger became almost inevitable.” Gold spoke to all nine lawyers at Eatons and was met with unanimous approval on both sides.
While it is a relatively small merger, there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure Eatons’ lawyers have a smooth transition into Mishcons.
Jay Quatrini, a former music partner at Mishcons who left in September last year to join Davenport Lyons, says that Gold has the right qualities to undertake such a task. “Kevin has a sense of the realities behind the contractual details of any deal. He can bring an insight into deals that other lawyers often cannot. He has the attention to detail and the ability to see how deals actually work, rather than how they usually work.”
Gold is clearly excited by the coming weeks. “It’s an exciting time, an interesting time and a nerve-wracking time for the medium-sized law firm,” he says.
In fact, Mishcon is so beside itself about the merger, working there at the moment sounds like a lawyer’s dream come true.
“On the human level, this Eatons merger will be one of a number of announcements we’ll be making in a short while, and there’s an air of fun, confidence and fulfilment at the firm. There’s not much more we could ask for,” says Gold.
Mishcon de Reya