When Theodore Goddard merged with Addleshaw Booth & Co in May 2003 there was much speculation as to whether or not the two firms were suitable bedfellows. TG was a small, City practice with a big reputation and an unusual media department. Addleshaws was the gruff Northern outfit with a small City office and a history of solid corporate finance and real estate work. But rather like champagne and Guinness, what looked to be an unlikely combination seems to have blended together.
Since the merger, Addleshaws has looked to grow internationally, opening offices in Singapore and Dubai in 2012 and in Hong Kong in 2013, in the hope of increasing its global client base. Like every other firm, AG has been trying to develop its corporate and finance groups in recent years. And it hasn’t done a bad job of it: its more notable clients include Sainsburys, Aviva, Barclays Bank, Credit Suisse, Santander and The Co-operative Group.
AG experienced speedy growth in the glory days thanks to its large real estate and corporate departments, with turnover peaking at £196 million in 2007/8. After being hit hard by the credit crunch, turnover had climbed to £171.4 million by 2013/2014. Net profit in 2013/2014 dropped by 11% to £39.8 million, which was blamed on internal budget miscalculations as well as factors including partner restructuring and a fee write-off relating to AG's role advising the late Boris Berezovsky in his court battle with Roman Abramovich. In 2014/15, however, the firm returned to those pre-crunch highs, achieving turnover of £193 million. Helped, no doubt, by a beneficial turnaround when it was awarded £12.6 million in legal fees relating to Berezovsky's action.
There was a change of management in May 2014 when John Joyce took over the helm. Joyce set out a new strategy which included raising profit margins to 30% and becoming a top 20 firm with PEP of between £300,000 and £1million. In 2014/15 he got near it, with average PEP reaching £491k, and the the top of equity leaping 67% from £560,000 to £936,000. In 2015/16, average PEP grew 39% to £682,000 (attributable to a reduction in the number of equity partners from 94 to 87), while net profit increased almost 26% from £47.1m in 2014/15 to £59.1m.
The firm's ambition seemed to have been welcomed with one associate telling the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2016 survey, "John Joyce gets it. He is already making a difference in the essentials". Another associate said that following some departures in 2014, including a number of practice heads, "it feels a leaner and more driven firm but one that's pulling together at all levels".
Given the strategy that Joyce has set out, it is no surprise that hours are hardly slack, but they compare favorably to other large firms. “Completely flexible working. We work from our own satellite offices for as many hours a week as we choose” says one associate. One lawyer even “has enough time to write comedy for TV in his spare time”.
The firm also won praise for the people and partners: "Great place to work, normal people who excel at their work but are fun to be with". One associate gushes “There are loads of nice people. The likes of which will say hello to you in the corridor or urinate on you if you're on fire”. Although this is presumably not official Fire Marshall procedure at the firm.
There were a few grumbles about wedge, but staff complaints about the previous "vague" and "erratic" bonus scheme which, said an associate,
"was farcical and widely derided within the firm as a bad joke", did not fall on deaf ears. One said, "we do now actually HAVE a bonus scheme structured to stand a better than nigh-impossible chance of an annual pay out".
Staff complained of an IT system that is out of date, with one associate saying it was "creaking" and another that it was "reminiscent of a crumbling soviet satellite state". Although no extra investment is required in the canteen where the food was described as "too good" resulting in one staff member confessing "I've put on loads of weight since I have joined here".
In the City, the firm is housed in swanky offices overlooking Slaughter and May, the building designed to bring almost all of the London based staff under one roof & AG's subsequent bandying around of phrases such as the "Milton Gate Effect", lead some to believe that London is increasingly going to become the focus of the firm and it very much appears that it is attempting to establish itself as a smart city outfit. However, with a good deal of work still originating from the north of the country, uplanders are pulling their weight. Plus, the Leeds office apparently "has free drinks once a month".
A theme of the Firm of the Year 2016 responses from Addleshaws staff was its "down to earth" character, with the people "for the very large part", as "un-twatty as they come". If you’re looking for a bit of Northern common sense, Addleshaw Goddard may be a good bet. Plus, "one of the partners looks like a pirate".
Pay note: the pay figures we give are for London, and are higher than in the regions due to London weighting. First year trainees in the regions receive £26,000, second years receive £28,000 and NQs receive £41,500. The LPC grant is £4,500.