About Mishcon de Reya
Fancy being a lawyer and working whatever hours you like? At Mishcon de Reya, discussions opened in 2008 to try out a scheme where lawyers would be given the chance to put in anywhere between 800 and 2,000 hours a year, depending on their choice of lifestyle. Mishcon was also one of the first UK law firms to become carbon neutral. It’s the open-mindedness of such revolutionary investigations into work/life balance that helped put the London firm on The Sunday Times’ “Best Firms to Work For” list in both 2008 and 2009, and are assisting in its growth.
The legal guns of Brixton
Mishcon de Reya’s story began in Brixton in 1937, when Lord Victor Mishcon founded the one-man office, Victor Mishcon & Co. The firm added another office in 1961, but rapid growth only began in 1988 when a merger with part of Barletts de Reya created Mishcon de Reya, which employed 80 staff. The firm quickly developed into a midsized boutique with an impressive client roster and a diverse practice focusing on four main areas—business, real estate, dispute resolution and personal—and including specialist services such as wealth management, asset protection and urban regeneration.
Mishcon’s efforts to grow continued in 2008, when in August it augmented its private wealth planning group by bringing a five-lawyer team on board from Seddons, a West End law firm. Comprising partner Ned El-Imad and four assistants, the new hires formed a specialist residential conveyancing team for the firm’s high-net-worth clients. The additions came hard on the heels of insolvency partner Mike Stubbs joining the firm from Beachcroft in July. Reinforcing its insolvency practice is one step the firm is taking to prepare for the difficult economic times ahead.
Coping with the changing economy
Another step is to forego profits for savings and cost-cutting measures. While the firm saw profit per equity partner (PEP) soar at the end of the 2006-2007 financial year, leaping by 70 per cent from £411,000 to £698,000, PEP for 2007-2008 climbed by just 1.7 per cent, even though turnover had increased by more than 20 per cent. The firm attributed the drop in profits to a decision to reserve money for investments on account of the global economic downturn, with funds directed toward bolstering the firm’s litigation practice and also saved for new offices.
But as the markets continued to tumble, Mishcon, like firms elsewhere, was forced to take additional measures. In early December 2008, the firm undertook a business review, which resulted in a number of redundancies being made before the end of the year. The Lawyer reported in January 2009 that 17 people had been let go, including two partners, although the firm has not confirmed this information.
Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Mishcon de Reya is well known for its high-profile private clients, many of whom were personal clients of the firm’s founder himself, Lord Mishcon. Among the individuals advised by Lord Mishcon were Diana, Princess of Wales, Jeffrey Archer and Robert Maxwell. The firm was instrumental in handling Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 and represented Heather Mills in her bitter divorce from former Beatle Paul McCartney, until a dispute between Mills and her legal team resulted in the firm quitting the case. Spear’s Wealth Management Survey Awards in September 2008 recognised Mishcon de Reya as “Firm of the Year” for its family law department, widely known for advising clients from the highest end of the market.Acting alongside Magic Circle firm Linklaters, Mishcon de Reya demonstrated its real estate clout in 2008. The firms advised commercial property manager Capital & Counties on the £107.75 million acquisition of a 50 per cent stake of the Empress State building in Earls Court—one of London’s largest properties. Mishcon took the lead on the real estate aspects of the deal, while Linklaters handled the corporate dimension. More recently, the firm’s real estate team helped complete the £92.5 million acquisition of the “O2” Leisure and Retail Scheme on behalf of longtime client Matterhorn Capital, which entered into a joint venture with Brett Palos to purchase the property from the X-Leisure Fund in April 2009.
On the private equity side, Mishcon de Reya advised bioscience and sport safety evaluator Quotient Bioscience Group on raising £35 million, following an investment by TA Associates, a US private equity firm.
How to get a head
When a priceless Egyptian sculpture was recovered by the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit in 1999, it was Mishcon de Reya’s head of art law that was retained to assert the ownership rights of the treasure. Known as the Head of Amenhotep III, the artefact was stolen and illegally exported from Egypt in the late 1990s. On 19 December 2008, after lengthy legal proceedings, the work of Mishcon’s team paid off and the head was finally returned to the Arab Republic of Egypt.
In other litigation, Mishcon won a victory for Microsoft in a long-running anti-piracy case brought by the software giant against Itac, a company run by Barry Omesuh. Microsoft had won a £1 million judgment from the High Court in 2006 and when Itac had failed to pay two years later, Mishcon secured freezing and search orders against Omesuh. In February 2009, the onetime civil suit resulted in a criminal conviction when the High Court issued seven prison sentences against Omesuh.
Step it up
In November 2008, the firm announced that it had teamed up with Field Fisher Waterhouse and Reed Smith to offer specialist pro bono services at Queen Mary, University of London. The “Pink Law” Legal Advice Centre, the first of its kind in the UK, provides free legal advice on issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, such as employment discrimination, civil partnerships and cohabitation.
In April 2009, Mishcon de Reya announced a new career development programme for qualified solicitors, including the creation of two new stages along the path from assistant to partnership. The position of legal director, whose status is comparable to that of junior partner, will focus on the development of existing business rather than the generation of new business. The other new role is that of associate, to serve as an intermediate step between assistant and either legal director or junior partner.
12 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4QD
Phone: +44 (0)20 7440 7000
Managing Partner: Kevin Gold