Watson Burton ponders opening up equity to boost retention prospects

Watson Burton is launching an internal consultation on opening its equity structure.

The Newcastle-based firm hopes that the move will help retain salaried partners and associates.

Senior partner Rob Langley confirmed: “We’ll be looking at our equity structure as a short to medium-term project over the next 18 months to two years.”

The move may be necessary for the firm’s stability. Watson Burton’s tightly held equity has helped boost its average profit per equity partner to £712,000, the highest in Newcastle, but it also led to the exit of Langley’s predecessor as senior partner Andrew Hoyle.

As first reported on www. thelawyer.com (26 September 2006), Hoyle was ousted by the partnership last year following a row about the direction of the firm.

At the time the firm had just seven equity partners out of a total of 40 partners, leaving Hoyle isolated after protests by dissenters.

Langley intends consolidation after a whirlwind three years in which Watson Burton has opened offices in Leeds and London (The Lawyer, 11 August 2004, 12 June 2006).