Simmons & Simmons

  • Overview

THE SCOOP

One of the largest law firms in the UK by revenue, Simmons & Simmons regularly assists the top 10 global investment banks and boasts 40 per cent of the Fortune Global 500 as active clients.  By the close of financial year 2007-2008, the firm had capped several years of impressive growth with a turnover increase of 16 per cent, while profit per equity partner (PEP) grew by 22 per cent to reach £647,000, exceeding the firm's target of £600,000.

Going global

Founded in 1896 in the City of London by brothers Percy and Edward Simmons, Simmons & Simmons' modern history really kicked off when it became the first City firm to open an office in Brussels, in 1962.  This began the firm's global expansion process: offices were opened in Hong Kong in 1979, in Paris in 1988 and in New York in 1990.  In 1992, the firm participated in the founding of Grupo Legal Português EEIG, a cooperative venture with a group of Spanish and Portugese firms, quickly followed by an alliance with Italian firm Grippo e Associati in 1993.  Further expansion continued through the 20th and into the 21st century, and by 2007 the firm was operating 20 offices across the world.

Despite impressive growth, Simmons struggled financially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and suffered from a series of high-profile departures.  With the arrival of Mark Dawkins as managing partner in 2004, however, things began to look up.  A decision was made to increase profitability by demoting 11 partners from equity partnership, which, while risky, put the firm back on an even keel.  Four years of steady growth followed, with the firm's once-fraught international expansion activities proving to be a driving force: its offices in Italy and Holland, Asia and the Middle East were among those showing the fastest growth.

Flying high

While the rapid expansion of its international offices contributed to the firm's overall growth, in the financial year 2007-2008, Simmons' City practice was at the heart of its good fortune.  Responsible for 58 per cent of turnover, the London office's corporate work alone brought in 38 per cent of the firm's fees.  Technology, media and telecoms, energy and infrastructure, life sciences and financial institutions are the firm's predominant industries, with financial institutions boasting the majority of the firm's top 10 clients.  Increased profitability was also brought about through an overhaul of Simmons' international practice groups, which were made individually accountable on an international basis.

Foremost among Simmons' departments are its employment and IP practices, together with finance, which has enjoyed growth for several years.  The firm counts Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica among its clients, together with Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan on the finance side.  A historical association with the public sector had appeared to wane in 2006 with the effective nationalisation of the Ministry of Defence, but it was reawakened in 2008, when Simmons advised the government on the UK's largest-ever defence PFI deal: the £13 billion Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project.  In 2008, Simmons & Simmons also advised the MoD on a £6 billion agreement with Ascent Flying Training Limited, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and VT Group, to provide flight training for the UK Armed Forces.  For the firm's work on the Military Flying Training System agreement, it was honoured at the Public Private  Finance Awards in May 2009 with both the award for "Best Defence Project" and the Grand Prix for best deal.  At the same ceremony, Simmons was named "Best Legal Adviser".

MAMA mia

In early 2009, Simmons advised the shareholders of Dutch energy company Essent on the proposed €9 billion sale of its commercial business to RWE, a German energy giant.  Simmons also advised on a corporate transaction for retailer HMV Group; in the joint venture with MAMA Group, the second-largest operator of live music venues in the UK, HMV acquired 50 per cent of the venue operator.  Some of the UK's best-known venues were part of the deal, including the Hammersmith Apollo, which has since been renamed the HMV Apollo.

In other work, Simmons & Simmons advised JP Morgan Cazenove and Panmure Gordon in connection with specialist construction supplier SIG plc's issue of shares to raise £341.3 million, and counselled Kempen & Co, a Dutch investment bank, on the private placement of shares by biopharmaceutical company OctoPlus NV.Cost-cutting measures

Notwithstanding its expansionist drive, the firm has also done some scaling back.  In 2008, a number of partners in the firm's Tokyo practice moved to Lovells, and in January 2009, the firm announced that it plans to unite its two Netherlands offices, closing the Rotterdam outpost and transferring staff to Amsterdam.  In addition, the firm will in 2010 de-merge with its Portuguese partner Rebelo de Sousa, which will operate as a stand-alone firm in association with Simmons & Simmons.

In January 2009, Simmons & Simmons became the first City firm to ask its incoming trainees to consider deferring their start date for one year-a proposal that has since become commonplace.  In another effort to reduce the size of its intakes, Simmons & Simmons is launching a dedicated legal MBA course.  Trainees who enrol in the 12-month programme will have all costs covered by the firm and receive a maintenance grant of £15,000.

Simmons has undergone two rounds of redundancies in the last year.  In October 2008, the firm cut 21 jobs, and in May 2009, a second consultation resulted in the redundancies of 18 associates and 73 support staff in London.  The firm also froze its associate pay bands, though it has added a special bonus pool to reward top performers.  In another initiative to save costs and maximise efficiency, Simmons & Simmons is considering a proposal to outsource work to agency lawyers abroad.

Winning recognition

Simmons took home a raft of awards in 2008, including Funds Europe's "European Legal Adviser of the Year award 2008" and "Legal Firm of the Year award 2008" from Global InvestorFinancial News named the firm "Hedge Fund Law Firm of the Year" and Simmons received the Asian-Counsel Award for "Employment Team of the Year for the UAE."   In March 2009, the firm's international life sciences practice was recognised at the Managing Intellectual Property Global Awards 2009 with the title "Firm of the Year" in the Life Sciences - Europe category.

In the 2009 Workplace Equality Index compiled by gay equality charity Stonewall, Simmons was awarded "Most Improved Employer" status in recognition of its attention to LGBT issues.  Simmons also boasts the highest ranking for a law firm in the charity's Diversity Champions Programme.





Simmons & Simmons


CityPoint
One Ropemaker Street
London EC2Y 9SS
www.simmons-simmons.com

STATS


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Managing partner: Mark Dawkins
  • Total No. Attorneys 2009: 500

Major Office Locations

  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Shanghai, China
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Funchal, Portugal
  • Doha, Qatar
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Dusseldorf, Germany
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Milan, Italy
  • Rome, Italy
  • Padua, Italy
  • Tokyo, Japan
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