New era but same style for Macfarlanes as Martin and Martin set to take City thoroughbred's helm



Macfarlanes is ushering in its next generation of management, with longstanding leaders Robert Sutton and Paul Phippen standing down when their terms end next year.

Corporate head Simon Martin will replace Phippen as managing partner with private equity partner Charles Martin taking over as senior partner from Sutton on 1 May, 2008.

Both Sutton and Phippen will have served three consecutive three-year terms by the time they stand down. Both will remain with the firm as fee earners. The appointments will herald a new era at the top 30 UK firm, although the new heads have played down talk of strategic shifts.

Charles Martin, who will be responsible for partner issues, strategic development and client-facing communication, said: “Every senior partner interprets the role slightly differently and I will do it slightly differently to the way Robert does it, but I do not expect a great deal to change. Everything is working pretty well – the trick is to listen to what is going on in the market, understand our capabilities and make sure everything internally is running to deal with threats and opportunities.”

Simon Martin, who will handle the internal administrative and financial management of the firm, will be concentrating in the short term on the firm’s new building, which will be used for clients.

Macfarlanes will be taking possession of the new building – the firm’s seventh near its Norwich Street headquarters – later this summer, with the new facilities expected to open for clients next year.

Simon Martin commented: “Paul is going to be a hard act to follow – my main objective will be to ensure partners do not notice any change. Both Charles and I have been here for more than 20 years and it is our job to ensure the firm functions in the clients’ best interests.”

Macfarlanes will now appoint replacements for Charles Martin as head of Macfarlanes’ international practice group and Simon Martin as head of corporate before they take on their new roles.

Rivals were unsurprised by the appointments. Chris Carroll, managing partner of Travers Smith, told Legal Week: “It will have no impact on the firm. They have been picked to continue what the firm does at the moment, which is very successful. I am not surprised Charles Martin has taken over – along with Robert, he has been the most conspicuous face in the firm for some time.”

City partners were quick to praise Sutton’s performance in the role of senior partner. During his tenure the firm’s turnover has risen to £92m and average equity partner profits now stand at just under £1m.

The firm is also regarded by many as the top UK corporate practice outside the City top 10

One Slaughter and May partner said: “Under Robert the firm has gone from strength to strength. It is a far more successful firm now than when he took it over.”

However, rivals pointed out that Macfarlanes will have to work on selling its strategy of remaining solely in the UK.

Travers corporate chief Chris Hale said: “The perception is that firms like Travers, Macfarlanes and Slaughters have to work that much harder on our international approach because it is harder to convince clients that operating with firms that are not your own is as good as working with your own branded office.”