Management: the Nurofen Top 5

Catrin Griffiths

It’s been a relatively healthy first six months of the financial year, with many private practice firms reaping the benefits of a newly professionalised leadership team. But while financials may be on a sounder footing, management problems across The Lawyer UK 200 abound. Here are just a few examples of firms that have, well, issues.

The one where success has turned sour

BLP falls into this territory. For so long a firm that outperformed its peers financially, the past year has been painful, with dozens of senior departures and a PEP drop of 40 per cent. From managing a firm that has been used to success and where your leadership brand is about bottom-line growth, the job is now to rethink entire business units as well as telling the market that no, you’re not actually a basket case, as it happens. 

The one that gave up its UK brand

In many ways the safe haven of a US merger presents other intangible management problems. The UK national identity that was attached to Hammonds has disappeared with the Squire Sanders takeover. In a professional services world where identity is key, managing a brand that has suddenly become anonymous is a chronic, not an acute, management problem.

The one with the politics

Most private practice firms could be defined as political at some point in the management cycle. Who’d fancy running Withers at the moment? The firm could do with some stability after the talks with Speechly Bircham fell through, the departure of three department heads and another stepping down. That’s a whole new leadership team to get to grips with. Sympathy too, to new Ashurst boss Ben Tidswell who not only has to manage a newly merged beast but also the fallout from the departure of corporate head Stephen Lloyd. Getting the Geffen camp onside with the new regime is not for the fainthearted.

Most daunting of all is the prospect of managing HowardKennedyFsi. With CEO Mark Dembovsky abruptly stepping down, the business now being run by committee and the two parts of the merged firm apparently barely on speaking terms, running HKFSI will require a lot of Nurofen.

If you’re getting better known for being a soap opera rather than for your client work, you may just want to defuse some of the storylines.