Howard Kennedy has gone through some pretty major changes in recent years — and seems to have emerged in good shape, proving the doubters wrong. The product of a 2013 merger between sensible corporate outfit Howard Kennedy and the slightly quirky media law-slanted Finers Stephens Innocent, the combined outfit initially seemed an unlikely jumble of practice areas and personalities. But a successful consolidation has led to some fairly solid financial results, with the latest available figures showing firmwide revenues of over £60 million and an average profit per equity partner figure of £315,000. Re-elected managing partner Craig Emden is eyeing £80 million in annual revenues by 2024 and hopes to see the firm grow to a 70-partner practice with Howard Kennedy operating a two-tiered partnership of full equity and fixed-share partners.
Howard Kennedy’s financial services and real estate departments have led the growth charge; tech and media work, led by high profile co-founder Mark Stephens, adds glamour to the mix. Stephens has represented the likes of James Hewitt, who is said to have had an affair with Princess Diana, Vernon Unsworth, the British diver who brought legal action against Elon Musk, and Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. The real estate team also received a boost in 2023 through the firm’s acquisition of construction boutique Corbett & Co.
More recently, notable deals include the buy-back of Pandora Jewellery’s UK franchised business in real estate, advising Zelda Perkins (former assistant to Harvey Weinstein), and acting for the British Humanist Association and Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network on a £500 million claim lodged against them by a preacher.
A move out of the West End several years ago — where both legacy firms had been based — to swanky 1 London Bridge overlooking the Thames and the City is symbolic of Howard Kennedy’s ethos. Instructions are increasingly coming in from the banks, companies and start-ups across the river.
What all this means for rookies at the firm right now is a reasonable combination of decent work upon which to cut their teeth and a “really good” work/life balance. “Back in time for Antiques Road Trip,” quips one trainee. Another junior lawyer provides this insight: “I’m out the door by 7pm absolute latest — the partner once apologised to me for putting in a call from 6.30-7.30pm, calling it a ‘late one’. Everyone respects commitments you have outside of work and it’s noticeable that the firm adapts to what people need, especially working parents.”
The training is solid, with insiders reporting plenty of “hands-on experience” thanks to “regularly being taken to client meetings, mediations and court”, as well as “a broad variety of work with different types of clients and direct client contact”, according to our sources. Senior lawyers are said to “create an environment where it is easy to ask any questions and seek guidance” but they’re also “very good at making sure that I get out the door at a decent time on a regular basis”. Partners take an interest in trainee development, even when working remotely, as one insider details: “From the first day my supervisor encouraged me to pick up the phone and speak to seniors across different teams. Cameras are always on, on team calls, and partners sit in the open plan office, which creates a non-hierarchical atmosphere.” “It’s a collaborative rather than competitive environment,” another rookie summarises.
The firm can also be apparently “very social” with lawyers sometimes “all walking out the door together to go to the nearest pub”. “We’re a small cohort with a wide range of interests and diverse personalities but we’ve really stuck together and supported each other throughout what can be a tough training process,” one spy divulges.
How long this utopia can endure as Howard Kennedy becomes more ‘City’ in its culture is another matter. Indeed, there are signs that Howard Kennedy’s culture is coming under strain amid reports back in 2016 that its lawyers have their computers blocked if they fail to rack up seven hours of work a day. Still, according to our data the average leave time remains reasonable with most out the door by 6/6:30pm.
What you won’t get here are stellar perks or many secondment opportunities. Having said that, a wellness drive featuring free smoothies and talks about health has been well-received. A particular favourite has been the monthly ‘Early Riser’ breakfasts, with the firm offering staff free breakfast every day in the office as well as free lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays (with occasional cake offerings). What Howard Kennedy HQ does have, though, is a lovely office location on the Thames: “Location is 10/10 and the views are unbeatable”, said one insider. The cafeteria and social area on the sixth floor underwent a refurbishment a couple of year back and have proven to be popular additions to the snazzy digs.
Not that they’ve been forced to go into the office much — Howard Kennedy is reportedly “very flexible” about where its lawyers work, with our insiders reporting they WFH two to three days a week on average. The firm supplies equipment including screens, printers, laptops and phones but one spy complains the firm “loses points for not being able to expense WFH equipment.”
International secondments are rare (the firm can’t be faulted on this as it only has one office), although trainees do get to go along with their supervisors on the odd business trip — and have travelled to, among other places, the US, Hong Kong and Stockholm. Client secondments are also offered during the training contract stage with one trainee recently spending three months at whistleblowing charity Protect.