On being a market leader in the entertainment, media and creative sectors, the opening of the firm’s new LA office and more
John, you’ve worked at Clintons for 30 years - and been managing partner for 20 - so what have been your career highlights over the past three decades?
There have been many but in no particular order: seeing the firm grow from strength to strength with increasing profits; overseeing a number of trainees in to the partnership and then into equity; realising that a “crew pass” is better than an “all access” pass and standing on stage at Wembley with the roadie handing Jimmy Page his guitars.
On the down side, being cross examined for two days in the High Court in a nasty action alleging personal wrongdoing. The claimant lost and we were awarded indemnity costs. You learn a lot about yourself and your (supportive) partners when you are under this sort of pressure.
I’m now in the privileged position of being able to work three days a week and am able to pursue personal interests outside of the law.
Clintons is a market leader in the entertainment, digital media and creative industries; what sets you apart?
Simply put: great people, great work and great clients. In a number of the areas you mention, we have industry leaders at the top of their game with talented juniors coming up behind them. We invest a lot of time and thought into recruitment at the trainee and one to two year qualified level and we have an impressive track record of developing this talent. We encourage our solicitors to be entrepreneurial and they get to learn from the best thus perpetuating the cycle.
When it comes to lateral hires we have a good instinct for engaging those who we feel share the same values and most importantly those who will fit in. In my years at the firm, we have not had an equity partner leave us to join a competitor and virtually all have seen their careers out at the firm. Generally staff turnover is incredibly low and a number of key members of staff have been with us for even longer than myself. All of this filters down into being able to attract and retain clients and generally enhance the brand.
2016 has been an interesting year for the legal market. How has Clintons fared?
Our best year ever! Turnover was at a record high matched by the profits. We have a simple and transparent message that we try and instil into all fee earners: 1) get the work; 2) do the work; 3) bill the work; and 4) get paid. In other words, manage lock up efficiently.
As managing partner, I firmly believe that running a legal firm should not be and indeed, need not be a complex process. Managing people is slightly harder.
You’re opening an office in LA next year. Why now?
We have been working closely with American artists/labels/managers for a number of years and Nicky Stein, who is heading up the US operation, has been spending an increasing amount of time in LA expanding his ever burgeoning US rosta. We know the industry well and the types of deals that are being done so it was just a logical step.
How involved will you be in it and how closely will it work with London?
Well my youngest son also lives and works in LA so we will have to see. As for London, there will be a very close working relationship.
How are you staffing it?
Nicky has relocated to LA and we have two local attorneys. In London, we have two partners who are qualified to practise in the US.
What services will you be offering?
On the music front, exactly the same as for the UK, save that we will be advising on US law as well. We will also be looking to service some of the non music commercial needs of these clients but we see this as very much an add-on offering. Kami Naghdi has a thriving film and TV practice and hopefully being in LA will allow him to develop this in an interesting way.
What’s the aim/ vision of the new office?
That it recognises the importance of the American market to our business. It also allows us to structure something more formal and gives what we consider to be the right message to our clients (and prospective clients) at the same time as strengthening the Clintons brand.
What’s new for London next year?
Well the New Year starts with the addition of four new equity partners which we are all really excited about. The new partners are Kami (a lateral hire) who joined us a couple of years; Berkeley Edwards (music) who trained with us; Roddy Chisholm Batten (litigation) who joined us as a one year qualified and; Layla Bunni (employment) who was another lateral hire. I have no doubt that they will all contribute enormously to the continuing success of the firm.
Where do you want Clintons to be in five years’ time?
My assessment is that we are not far off optimum size. We are always on the look-out for top quality lawyers to join us but we are equally as happy to home grow them. We have no desire to grow for growth sake a mistake too many firms have in my view made in the past. We know what we are good at and how to deliver that product to the client. So saying, our offering goes well beyond the media and entertainment business and I would not rule out growth in private client (including our top rated family team), in property and in particular, corporate. I am confident that during this period we will have another record year if not more than one.