Mark Weston - partner - head of Information Technology, Intellectual Property & Commercial (London) at Hill Dickinson LLP: Growth in the Capital - and Capital growth
“International law firm Hill Dickinson has reached an agreement that will bring the commercial and wealth management practices of Matthew Arnold Baldwin to the firm.”
So, what’s behind those headlines? After many years in practice, having just moved to Hill Dickinson in London as part of that agreement, one common question I get asked is … why Hill Dickinson? As an adjunct to that, since the unknown always carries with it a degree of risk, the follow-up question seems to be … what sort of risk is Hill Dickinson?
The full name of the two practices that moved across were the Information Technology, Intellectual Property and Commercial team (mercifully, “IT/IP/Comm” for short) and also the Wealth Management team. Different terminology means different things in different firms. Certainly the label “Commercial” can cover a multitude of sins. So to clarify, in terms of the IT/IP/Comm team that moved across, it works across all areas of commercial law, information technology (IT) law, intellectual property (IP) law, on-line commerce law and media law, advising on, and tackling, non-contentious and contentious matters in all these areas. The team advises businesses of all sizes and types but has a particular specialism in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) sector. The Wealth Management team services private clients and businesses, advising on a huge range of corporate tax and structuring issues as well as personal tax issues.
Personally, as the head of the IT/IP/Comm team moving across, I am used as a 'trusted adviser' by many clients in all sorts of businesses, often acting as a 'private practice in-house counsel' - with the rest of the team actually doing all the hard work(!) in supporting that role. Although the team has a specialism in Tech and Internet businesses, within IT generally it has particular expertise in IT projects, software issues (including development, licensing, maintenance and distribution), SaaS, Cloud and virtualization issues, outsourcing, facilities management, new media solutions, transmedia development (particularly transmedia gaming), transacting via the Internet, online retail, e-commerce (including B2B, B2C, B2M and B2G), s-commerce, m-commerce, liability management strategies, IT audits, procurement, IT policies, data protection (privacy) and freedom of information issues. Pause for breath. And if you understand all those words, then not only can you speak “legal” you can also speak “IT” – which is one of the many “bridging-of-worlds” functions we undertake for our clients.
In more general commercial terms, the team does the usual gamut of commercial work (terms and conditions, agency, distribution, marketing, business advice, commercial disputes, etc.) – but not corporate work, employment work or property work, which is serviced by other teams in Hill Dickinson.
To round out the picture, there is also an increasingly extensive media side of the practice which relates primarily to publishing (both real world and digital content), to games and gaming platforms (and particularly new transmedia technologies), advising companies about their advertising onscreen, online and in print and managing their public communications strategies generally (dealing with the CMA and ASA in the process).
It’s quite a substantial skillset, which is used by a varied client base which includes Groupon, RTL Group S.A., Fremantle Media, Intel, Elstree Film Studios, Makita, mysupermarket, GOOP.com and the BBC – and a huge range of tech companies and start-ups.
So why Hill Dickinson?
In the face of fierce competition in the mid-tier of the legal market, Hill Dickinson has had a year of transformation. Hill Dickinson now is looking to secure its place by implementing an aggressive growth strategy, which will take its revenue to £150million by 2017. The firm is aiming to achieve this growth by merger, acquisition - either bolting on smaller, more specialist firms or acquiring another firm of similar size with a similar mix of work to Hill Dickinson’s core sectors - and through a number of high calibre key lateral hires.
For several years now, Hill Dickinson has had a London office which has been steadily growing into a major, comprehensive, full service offering. Coming into an existing national team is an attractive proposition, as the firm seems poised just at the explosive point on the growth curve. For a while now, the firm has reported a strong performance within its Business Services Group (BSG) (of which IT/IP/Comm and Wealth Management forms a part) and has, for a while, been looking at potential mergers and acquisitions; also targeting growth through a combination of strategic acquisitions and key lateral hires in the BSG (although this is also true of its other core sectors of health, insurance and marine). Despite a rapidly changing legal market - which has provided some challenges for all firms - the BSG has seen real growth and the acquisition of further specialist teams is helping to fuel that growth. So we came!
Also, in terms of “hedging risk” for the transferring teams, Hill Dickinson is already well known as a leading international commercial law firm with more than 1,250 people including 190 partners and legal directors, with offices in Liverpool, Manchester, London, Sheffield, Piraeus, Singapore, Monaco and Hong Kong. So, despite the turbulence in the legal market, we reckoned it was not exactly about to close its doors any time soon.
As the London office is based in Liverpool Street (in the Broadgate Tower), for our team, this is an ideal physical location to service the ever-growing raft of Tech businesses in the Old Street-Shoreditch-Finsbury Park area. Although the tech world connects people virtually, sometimes clients need the confidence instilled by a face-to-face meeting – which always betters a face on a screen. Particularly with the faces some lawyers have… which would not win any design awards. But we can advise on that too!