Exclusive: Leading financial services firm outlines plan for ABS

Cullingworth: In search of a core of people known in their field

Financial and professional services group Punter Southall has outlined plans to expand its fledgling law firm as it offers seasoned lawyers a new option to further their careers.

Punter Southall Law (PSL), an alternative business structure, is another growing category of cost-shared law firm, but is unique in that it is attached to an established firm such as this.

It is one of nine companies that are part of the Punter Southall Group, which has 520 employees in 10 offices across the UK, serving 1,500 corporate clients, 10,000 individual clients and £36 billion in assets under influence.

The managing director is Simon Cullingworth, former managing partner of the London office of the American company Kobre & Kim, supported among others by development director Nick Holt.

Mr. Holt, co-founder of the London office of Weil Gotshal & Manges and former managing partner of K Legal, the law firm associated with KPMG, was most recently a senior headhunter focusing on high profile partner moves .

Group chief executive Jonathan Punter, also a non-executive director of PSL, said Legal futures that the decision to create PSL was a response to customer demand and also to know the right people to lead it.

“We’re much more successful in the growth areas of the business where we know people,” he said. “We’ve had a lot less success where we recruit ‘cold’ people.”

Describing Punter Southall as “a consultancy business and a relationship business first and foremost”, he stressed the importance for PSL of not only providing legal advice, but also helping clients implement it.

“A lot of lawyers have never had to apply their own advice,” he observed.

Mr Cullingworth said the original intention was to provide an option for senior practitioners who were “beginning to be pushed away from magic cabinets and the silver circle”.

However, the greater demand for flexibility due to Covid has “shaken the tree into the thirties”.

Mr Holt added that PSL was “actively seeking to provide an exit door for small businesses where the senior partner is scratching their heads for succession”.

The overall goal, Cullingworth explained, was to combine the best elements of a platform law firm – consultants keep at least 70% of what they charge, depending on the level of fees they charge. they generate – with the almost old-fashioned ethos and collegiality of a City company.

Mr Punter said: ‘Moving from a culture of eating what you kill and fighting over who killed and to a collaborative culture [is what] at some point in life people prefer. This prolongs their career.

At the same time, Mr Cullingworth said he was “very keen for people not to burn their own bridges”, so that they could potentially continue to work with their old businesses in relation to particular clients who still wanted this connection.

PSL currently has four senior paid solicitors – recent work includes representing social enterprise investment fund Big Issue Invest in its multi-million pound investment in the Village Underground venues in East London – and initially plans to move to 20.

“If we can get 20 of the right people, it can grow from that,” Mr Cullingworth said. “It’s about getting a core of people who are known in their field.”

While ideally lawyers would have supporters, he said he expected Punter Southall’s larger group to generate work for lawyers as well.

“We are not looking to be totally dependent on Punter Southall, but there is a large customer base that is used to Punter Southall doing its job.”

For example, two PSL labor lawyers work alongside Punter Southall Aspire, which offers employee benefits, workplace pensions and individual financial advice.

PSL will also build a team of more junior lawyers to support the consultants – a paralegal is taking the lawyer qualifying exam – and will also bring in lawyers, as is currently the case with an IPO he is managing. .

“The commercial bar has found that it’s an exceptionally good part of their training to go ‘in-house’ on a project basis,” Cullingworth said.

Another part of the group working with PSL is Punter Southall Analytics, a data-driven company that helps companies and trustees recover historical losses through mediation or litigation.

Chief executive David Rankin said he was working on numerous damage analyzes in high-profile class actions – such as against credit card companies and truck manufacturers – as well as the constitution of potential pension plan groups themselves for abusive financial claims.

He said law firms approaching litigation funders with cases often focus entirely on the quality of the legal argument rather than the return, but by working with PSL, Punter Southall Analytics could provide both. However, PSL would not continue to do legal work on the claim.