Pannone partners break three-year lock-in to leave Slater & Gordon

At least two legacy Pannone partners have managed to exit Australian-listed Slater & Gordon and others are negotiating exits despite a three-year lock-in.

Just six months after Manchester-based Pannone was acquired by consumer giant Slater & Gordon, construction partner Sean McCay and travel injury partner Clare Campbell have left and at least two more partners are known to have handed in their notice.

Earlier this month Campbell, who was joint head of Pannone’s travel litigation team, joined Leigh Day as a partner having left Slater & Gordon in April. She spent the interim period on gardening leave.

Campbell was subject to the three-year lock-in, which places partner capital and share options at risk if it is broken. It is understood that partners breaking out of the lock-in early may be forced to give up their capital investment in the firm.

McCay is believed to have left just after completion of the merger, which involved the demerger of Pannone into commercial and consumer arms and the subsequent acquisition of the latter business by Slater & Gordon in February (17 February 2014).

McCay joined Squire Sanders in Manchester, just prior to the firm’s merger with Patton Boggs to form Squire Patton Boggs in early June (27 May 2014).

It is unclear whether McCay was tied into the same three-year lock-in that his fellow Pannone partners were subject to. Market sources suggest his practice did not fit in either remaining Pannone entity and he was therefore free to leave.

Slater & Gordon’s preliminary financial report to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) earlier this month showed UK revenues broke through the £100m barrier, with an 119 per cent increase in turnover from £46.1m to £101m (A$182.5m) for the 2013/14 financial year (12 August 2014).

However, sources suggest the legacy Pannone exits follow calls for partners to repay cash to Slater & Gordon as Pannone fell short of its year-end revenue projection at the close of its financial year in March.

Details of the tie up between Slater & Gordon and Pannone were revealed by The Lawyer in September 2013, when sources close to the firm said a period of due diligence was underway (20 September 2013).

Slater & Gordon finally broke its silence in November and confirmed that it was in tie-up talks with Pannone following months of silence about the top-level discussions (11 November 2013).

Pannone was the firm’s fifth merger in a year, following the acquisitions of the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters (19 August 2013), Goodmans (30 August 2013), Fentons (21 August 2013) and John Pickering & Partners (24 October 2013).

Slater & Gordon UK head Neil Kinsella said: “We are unable to comment on the details of any individual departures.”