Osborne Clarke


Known for its distinctively diverse practice, Osborne Clarke is well respected in the South West and noted in London and Reading for its expertise in AIM work and media and technology matters.  The firm is viewed as one of the best banking advisers outside of London, with top-tier clients like 3i on its corporate roster, while offering quality work in employment, intellectual property and general litigation.  In London, the firm is considered more of a mid-market outfit.

Connecting Bristol to London

Osborne Clarke was founded in Bristol in 1748 by Jeremiah Osborne; it has played a significant role in the region's history and is a major presence in the city to this day.  In 1833, for example, the founder's grandson served as solicitor to The Great Western Railway Company.  This solicitor, also called Jeremiah Osborne, rowed famed engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel along the River Avon to survey its bank for the route of the planned Great Western Railway, which was later constructed to link Bristol and London.

Osborne Clarke was the first regional firm to open an office in London in the 1980s, where its practice concentrated on corporate transactions; the City operation since then has helped fuel the firm's growth.  In the 1980s, Osborne Clarke created the Osborne Clarke Alliance, a joint venture with a selection of European law firms to satisfy its clients' international aspirations.  This alliance is today active in 19 locations across Europe.  By 2001, the firm had opened offices in Cologne, Reading and California's Silicon Valley-where it became the first pan-European law firm to set up shop in the American technology capital-and in 2005, the firm opened an office in Munich.

On the shoulders of technology giants

Between 2001 and 2002, the firm suffered from the collapse of the dot-com market, which hit hardest in its core corporate technology market.  But a few years later, between 2005 and 2007, the firm saw significant growth and increase in profits.  In 2007-2008, revenue rose by 12 per cent from £82.8 million to £95.3 million, while profits per equity partner (PEP) rose by 8.4 per cent to reach £554,000.  The firm's client roster today includes Consensus Business Group, Vodafone, Eurostar, Royal Bank of Scotland, Dell and Thames Water.

Osborne Clarke set up one of the first legal practices for the growing digital business sector; among the group's clients are Facebook, MySpace and BSkyB.  One of the leaders in the marketing and advertising sector, Osborne Clarke even has its own specialist website (www.marketinglaw.co.uk).  In the interactive entertainment industry, the firm advises videogame makers such as Activision, Climax and Kuju, as well as others involved in games development, like the project management and funding specialists Fund4Games.

A well established reputation in the technology, media and telecoms sector certainly paid off for Osborne Clarke in 2008.  When Motorola completed the review of its UK law advisers in May, it stripped down its previous cluster of eight law firms to include just two on its panel: Osborne Clarke and Bevan Brittan.  The appointment meant that, alongside Bevan Brittan, Osborne Clarke would be called upon to handle the bulk of the technology major's UK legal work.  The following month, Osborne Clarke managed to win one of Bevan Brittan's leading dispute resolution partners.  Partner Tim Boyce joined Osborne Clarke's Bristol office in June 2008, raising the number of partners in the dispute resolution team to 13.A Bravura performance

Osborne Clarke picked up the title of "Real Estate Team of the Year" at The Lawyer Awards in June 2008 for the first time.  The award was primarily in recognition of its work advising developer London & Continental and operator Eurostar on the major development of St Pancras.  The firm acted on a number of high-profile deals in 2008, including advising Bravura, the largest transfer agency application provider in Europe, on a major outsourcing agreement.  Tackling the provision of transfer agency technology services for Citi's Securities and Fund Services business in the European Region, the deal included Bravura's acquisition of Citi's Warsaw-based transfer agency software platform for $21 million.

When Japanese bank Nomura International acquired Lehman Brothers' European arm after the investment bank's collapse in September 2008, Nomura turned to Osborne Clarke for advice on the employment aspects of the takeover.  The deal, which was completed within three days, involved the transfer of 2,500 employees to Nomura, and was cited by The Lawyer in naming Osborne Clarke runner-up for its "Employment Team of the Year" Award 2009.

On the corporate side, Osborne Clarke advised on the £23.5 million management buyout of Hastings Direct, a UK insurance broker.  The firm also acted for Axon Group on its £440 million sale to HCL Technologies-an Indian IT services provider-in a deal that HCL has described as "the largest acquisition in the tech space by an Indian company".  More recently, Osborne Clarke advised longtime client Majestic Wine on its acquisition of fine wine specialists Lay & Wheeler in March 2009.

Am I Blu

In the energy sector, the firm recently advised on an innovative renewable energy project for Blu-Ng, a new joint venture set up by 20C, a renewable energy company, and National Grid.  Osborne Clarke advised longstanding client 20C and Blu-Ng in connection with the project, which will develop geo-pressure technology.  And in the spring of 2009, the firm advised Babcock Marine on several major defence contracts, including a £560 million contract to provide services to the Royal Navy's base at Devonport, a £150 million deal to provide maintenance to the Royal Navy submarine fleet, and a £55 million contract to supply 200 armoured cars and tactical support vehicles for use in Afghanistan.

Onshore outsourcing

When the half-year results came in for 2008-2009, Osborne Clarke reported a 5 per cent dip in profits.  In response to the slowdown in transactional work, Osborne Clarke underwent a round of redundancies in December, cutting eight jobs in its corporate and real estate practices.

A few months later, the firm outsourced 75 support staff as part of a seven-year £50 million contract with legal process outsourcing company Integreon to create the UK legal sector's first onshore shared-services centre.  Under the agreement, the firm has transferred 75 support staff to Integreon and former Osborne Clarke COO Chris Bull has become the company's European chief operating officer.  The US-based Integreon, which plans to establish a base in the UK and then to expand further in Europe, now provides the bulk of Osborne Clarke's middle-office services, including IT, secretarial and business intelligence.TRAINEES TALK

Responsibility is "just right"

In addition to the firm's friendly climate, Osborne Clarke trainees are upbeat about the pay and the level of work they take on at an early stage.  "I have received so much responsibility so soon, and it is really making me rise to the challenge of performing my best and intellectually stimulating me," says one trainee in her first year.  Trainees are by no means thrown into the deep end.  "Supervisors are very supportive and take time to explain things properly, even if they are busy," says a second-year.  Work hours may vary by seat, trainees say.  "Whilst corporate and banking require you to spend more time in the office, most trainees work between 9 and 6.30," a second-year explains.  "Most people do not stay late unless they have to."  

Among the four six-month rotations, litigation, corporate and property seats are must-dos at Osborne Clarke.  "You have to really push from the start of training contract to get what you want seat- and location-wise," says one insider.  Apparently, "there is a huge backlog of trainees who want to work in London."  But those on the waitlist might want to keep in mind that "if you are not at the Bristol office, you have to do a lot of travelling to get to training."  (The firm reports that it has since changed the programme so that each office recruits trainees rather than having a rotation system across offices.)

Out in the open

The open-plan offices are a boon for trainees, as it gives them easy access to lawyers at all levels.  "Partners, associates, solicitors and trainees all sit together, and there is nothing to indicate who is a partner and who is just a solicitor," one trainee reports.  "Although tricky when you start, it promotes the idea that everyone can be approached."  There are "lots of arranged trainee events sponsored by the firm", as well as informal socialising.  In Bristol, "The Severn Shed provides the happy hour cocktails and is a location of choice for the trainees."  "Generally", notes one trainee, "the firm is very friendly and makes every attempt to get people together for a bit of a drink or two."  The firm also gives trainees a social budget each year to use "as we see fit".  "Upcoming social is all about the lash.  However, the 'eating is cheating' mantra may not be enforced," a London trainee adds.

Osborne Clarke

One London Wall
London EC2Y 5EB
Phone: +44 (0)20 7105 7000


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Managing partner: Simon Beswick
  • Total No. Attorneys 2009: 395

Major Office Locations

  • Silicon Valley, CA
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Reading, United Kingdom
  • Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Munich, Germany
  • Cologne, Germany
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