Starting a City firm from scratch

The post about living name partners got me thinking, would it be possible to start a City firm from scratch and grow to be meaningfully competitive with MC/SC/US firms these days in Corporate/Banking? 

Seems like a few US firm City offices have grown to become standalone serious UK outfits, but with the benefit of a brand name behind them and work fed from the US in the earlier years. 

If 4-5 rising stars from big firms wanted their names on the door, could they do it or is the market too risk averse now?

Essentially yes, but if Avonhurst grew to the size and scale of an MC firm during the founders’ working lives

well it likely will grow to rival a small US firm's corporate and banking team re size and scale in the next few years, if it's not already there compared to some

Probably not. Most clients are institutional and would not follow my m7 Dave just because he fancies making more wedge.

Possible, but difficult. Also the founders will probably not want to wait around for a hundred years to build a brand just for the sake of it, they'll want to cash out.

Times and things change. When I was starting out no partnership could have over 20 partners even the biggest biggest city firms. We have changed quite a bit since then.

Watson Farley did a deal with Norton Rose and did it 

Otherwise Daddy needs to run a hedge fund / property company


surprising how rarely this hapens

barriers to entry are limited tbh

Unclear what was so special about Stanley Berwin that he did it twice in an era when hardly anyone else did it at all. Maybe he was just a pain in the arse to work with.

The way to do it, I think, would be to get a couple of PE and banking partners with a decent client book to eschew their natural greed (big ask) and accept that building a firm from scratch takes a lot of work and some upfront capital before the fee revenue takes off.

The reason why it doesn’t happen is because US firms have offered the opportunity to build your own thing and more money than you can shake a stick at, which rather tends to turn the heads of independent-minded successful partners in corporate/M&A and finance practice areas.

Litigation boutiques much more viable.


You wonder how often big clients actually follow an individual from one firm to another. Suspect far less than people assume. I never would.

This would be quite hard but probably not impossible. 

The reason no-one has done it is there's not much point.   Money?  Unlikely to end up more profitable than MC / US.  Lifestyle - wouldn't work (in those markets).

I’ve actually looked at doing this tbh, and my conclusion as a non mega player thinking of starting a commercial firm was - it would be fine provided you didn’t expect to be acting for megabanks and on huge hostile FTSE 100 takeovers from day 1 (or at all). Putting together a firm that did decent commercial, corporate and finance work would be pretty feasible if you were reasonably experienced, gave it time, and put your back into networking.

The reason people don’t do it is that there isn’t that much need or desire, on the part of most people, to do so, given what kinds of people lawyers usually are and what drives them