Frustration among lawyers at ‘epidemic’ levels, claims Keystone founder

Keystone Law founder James Knight has claimed there is an “epidemic” of frustration among lawyers at traditional firms as his firm continues its hiring spree by adding 10 lawyers from the likes of Ashurst, DLA Piper, SNR Denton and Speechly Bircham.

James Knight, Keystone Law
James Knight, Keystone Law

The hiring round also sees the firm, whose lawyers work remotely and are paid on a performance basis, take on Motorola Mobility senior commercial counsel Clare Lucas, who spent 10 years working for the Emea division of the mobile maker.

The other hires are: criminal lawyer Lucinda Russell-Jones from DLA Piper; commerical contracts partner Nicholas Tall from Speechly Bircham; pensions and employment lawyer Simon Owensfrom Ashurst; commercial property lawyer Joanna Bullard from Thomas Eggar; head of private client at Hanne & Co Solicitors Nia Jones; corporate lawyer Jemma Shorten from SNR Denton; corporate lawyer Catherine Williams from JAG Shaw Solicitors; corporate lawyer Alyson Young from Furley Page Solicitors; and family lawyer Hilary Pennington-Mellor from RosenblattSolicitors.

Although eight of the 10 hires are women, the firm’s managing partner James Knight said the structure of Keystone Law, which operates a performance-based remuneration structure rather than paying conventional salaries, is attracting both male and female solicitors who are looking for something “not found in the conventional partnership model”.

“The frustrations of senior solicitors and partners is almost reaching epidemic proportions based on what I’m hearing and what I’m encounting on a day-to-day basis,” Knight told The Lawyer.

“Solicitors want to practise law, but the distractions of many law firms – the administration of the practice, management of staff and so on – are such that they have a decreasing amount of time to do so.

“People are saying that the partnership model is outdated and the business model is changing – we’re attracting more breadwinners, not because they want to work from home but actually because they want more money.”

The recruitment drive comes as the 11-year old firm posted turnover of £11.2m at the 2011/12 year-end, a rise of 14.3 per cent on the previous year’s £9.8m. In July, Knight outlined plans to take on an additional 50 lawyers, setting his sights on achieving £25m turnover within the next three years (12 July 2012).

In September the firm added Salans real estate partner Nick Ellis and family specialist Shashi Sachdeva, who was a partner at Thomas Eggar (25 September 2012).

The firm anticipates a further 30 hires on top of these this year. Knight said the firm has already had a “fair amount” of interest from US firms in the City as well as those in the magic circle.

Clients at Keystone Law include LoveFilm, Neal’s Yard and Snog Yoghurt.