Our weekly leadership interview is one of our most popular regular features. During the course of 2015 we have profiled managing partners from the magic circle, US giants, and boutiques making a splash.
Three Crowns’ founding partners: “We’re suffering from an embarrassment of riches”
Three Crowns’ launch in 2014 marked one of the biggest litigation shakeups in the market that year.
The six founding partners left their “comfortable jobs” running the arbitration practices at various magic circle and leading firms to set up the boutique last February. And they didn’t start slow.
Three Crowns (3C) entered the market with three offices in London, Paris and Washington DC right off the bat – an “ambitious venture”, co-founder Constantine Partasides QC recalls – but one year on it looks like a clever strategy.
3C is now made up of 40 lawyers across its offices, has taken one further partner, Carmen Martinez Lopez from Covington & Burling, won clients including ExxonMobil, Boeing and BP, and its global average profit per equity partner recently hit magic circle plateau partner levels of between £1.3m and £1.6m.
Global revenue, which will be revealed officially in the firm’s first consolidated LLP filings next year, has hit a “double digit million-pound figure”, according to Partasides.
“We had a conviction that, having worked for blue chip clients, what they were most interested in from arbitration service providers was something they weren’t getting in big law,” says Partasides. “They wanted distinguishing advocacy and a structure that gave weight and support to their big disputes.”
Gibson Dunn’s Geffen: US firms at point of no return
Former Ashurst head Charlie Geffen oozes confidence about the prospects for building his City corporate finance team.
In August Gibson Dunn & Crutcher’s nascent but star-studded London-based English law corporate team represented William Hill on the betting company’s acquisition of a chunk of online lottery software business NeoGames.
This was barely a £20m deal, yet for Gibson Dunn its significance lay not so much in its size but in what it says about the progress the US firm is already making following its hire of a group of UK-based English law transactional partners.
Last year Gibson Dunn made waves when it hired not only former Ashurst senior partner Charlie Geffen, one of the best-known private equity partners in the London market, but also fellow corporate partners Jonathan Earle, Mark Sperotto and Nigel Stacey.
On the finance side the firm also hit the headlines when it brought in Kirkland & Ellis partner Stephen Gilllespie.
The moves are an attempt to kick-start the firm’s English law transactional team. The Earle-led William Hill deal, though relatively small, is an early sign that the US firm’s investment may be paying dividends.
Mishcon’s Gold: “If the cleaner approached me with an idea on how to improve the firm, I’d listen”
It’s been the best part of a year since Mishcon de Reya managing partner Kevin Gold introduced agile working and “unlimited holidays” for all partners, but the famously outspoken head is not finished revolutionising the private client and litigation legal market just yet.
Growth is, of course, Gold’s objective. But exponential expansion poses a problem for a boss that prides himself as much on the “Mishcon way” – the culture of the firm – as its clients. The idea that the carefully cultivated Mishcon brand of openness, devolution and personable management may not survive the changes is troubling Gold.
“How much of the culture can we retain as we grow?” Gold muses. “When we’re turning over £300m will I still know everyone’s names, their partners’ names and their children’s names?”
It’s perhaps testament to Gold’s leadership style that he professes to know this level of detail of his partners’ personal lives, though he’s clearly a man that has faith in people.
“If the person that cleans the toilets approached me with an idea on how to improve the firm, I’d listen,” Gold says.
Dentons chair on the Dacheng merger: “Like Halley’s Comet and the Holy Grail”
After the announcement of the merger between Dentons and Chinese firm Dacheng, the two firms’ management speak about the opportunities for the future – and why they believe the tie-up is ground-breaking.
Dentons global chair Joe Andrew recalls being in London as a young lawyer in 1986 and witnessing the “once-in-a-lifetime” passage of Halley’s Comet overhead. The experience clearly stayed with him; nearly 30 years later, Andrew is using it as a comparative metaphor when announcing to staff the merger of Dentons with Chinese firm Dacheng.
“This combination is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he declares. ”It doesn’t just transform our firm, it transforms the entire profession.”
The merger between the two firms, to be formally signed at a ceremony next week, will create the world’s largest law firm by lawyer numbers with over 6,500 lawyers (22 January 2015). Combined revenue will be in the region of $1.7bn (£1.13bn) – Dentons bringing turnover of $1.3bn (2013 figures), while Dacheng produced revenue of around $400m in the 2014 financial year.
“Every law firm would want to do what we’ve actually accomplished,” says Andrew, with pride. “It’s the Holy Grail of everything a law firm wants to do.”
Linklaters’ Simon Davies: “We’re already the global elite”
Last year, almost half (45 per cent) of Linklaters’ £1.25bn revenue was generated out of its Silk Street offices in London. It’s a relatively high percentage for a managing partner who can perhaps best sum up his almost eight years at the helm in one word: globalisation.
In his two terms as managing partner Simon Davies has focused on an international expansion drive that has resulted in offices Washington, growth in New York and a spattering of offices across Asia, plus flags in the ground in Australia and South Africa thanks to closely nurtured alliances.
For Davies, success means focusing on cross-border work and picking up global mandates from FTSE 100 corporations. He has met with around 100 major US corporates since he and the executive committee sat down a couple of years ago and compiled a list of target clients. Since then the firm has had instructions from around a quarter of them.
Around 70 per cent of the work Linklaters does is cross-border, aided in part by its commitment to pitching for positions on global panels.
“Our success rate on pitches is more than 90 per cent,” Davies says, “which leads to more and more global clients being won by the firm”.