Exclusive: Speechly aims at Europe with Geneva launch

Speechly Bircham is staking its future on international expansion across Europe kickstarting today with the launch of a second office in Switzerland.

The office launch in Geneva comes just months after the firm called off merger talks with Withers (23 May 2013), which opened in the jurisdiction in September 2005.

Michael Lingens

The Speechly office will be led by former Withers lawyer Michael Wells-Greco and of counsel Francis Rojas, who both left the firm in 2011 to join Luxembourg-based personal wealth outfit Maitland (18 November 2011).

Speechly senior partner Michael Lingens said the firm intended to grow the office gradually, with no immediate lateral hires in the offing. Lingens added that the firm would target instructions in the field of private wealth.

He commented: “It’s not just private client work, but private wealth. We’re advising families on all aspects of their activities, whether that’s estate planning or investments. It will initially house a mixture of private client and tax lawyers, who will work with their colleagues in London and our other offices.”

Sources close to the firm said further expansion across Europe was anticipated with announcements expected within months, although this was not confirmed by Lingens.

Growth has stalled at the firm in recent years with turnover falling from £59.5m in 2010//11 to £57.6m in 2011/12 to £57.5m at the latest year-end (28 June 2013). Average profit per equity partners has also fallen over the same period by 23.7 per cent from £384,000 to £293,000.

There has been investment in the firm and this latest office opening marks its third in little more than two years. The firm opened its first international bases in Zurich and Luxembourg in June 2011. Zurich was initially intended to focus on private client work, while Luxembourg looked to grow the firm’s regulatory funds practice (6 June 2011).

Geneva has become a forum for firms with a personal wealth slant, and is already home to international outfits including Collyer Bristow (11 October 2004), Withers, and Charles Russell.