When Berrymans Lace Mawer merged with Scotland’s HBM Sayers in May 2014, the combined entity rebranded as BLM and promptly broke through the £100 million revenue mark. But it has been a turbulent journey since then as government reforms affecting insurance work – a central practice area for BLM – have caused it to review its business model.
This has meant several rounds of redundancies as the firm pivots towards more higher end work as part of its ambition to be “one of the leading global insurance and risk law specialists by 2020”. The transition has seen revenue dip slightly from £107.7 million to £106.7 million, as net profit fell from £14.8 million to £13 million. Several high profile partners have left the firm, while last year BLM entered into a refinancing arrangement with two banks.
But there are some encouraging signs amid the upheaval. Profit per equity rose sharply in the firm’s most recently disclosed financial results – from £192,000 to £232,000 – while a recently signed two year ‘tech and analytics’ partnership with the London School of Economics promises to help BLM develop new case prediction and risk assessment models.
The firm has also put in a decent performance in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19, suggesting that the junior end of the firm continues to tick along quite nicely amid the repositioning taking place at a strategic level. The firm scored As for training, quality of work, peer support, partner approachability and social life, with trainees painting a picture of a pleasant and informal environment (office dress is casual, unlike many law firms), where “we were all very good friends”.
The work is what you’d expect from an insurance law firm with an impressive client list. Close ties to the major insurers see 28% of trainees do a client secondment each year, according to our figures, with placements at the likes of Hiscox Insurance, risk brokers Griffiths & Armour and the Association of British Insurers. Secondments are also available after qualification.
There are opportunities too to get involved in the firm’s expanding private wealth team and commercial advisory group, which it established in late 2017 with the hire of 33 lawyers from Slater and Gordon. BLM has also dipped its toe into international waters, launching Global Insurance Law Connect, an international network with other insurance law specialists.
Other common trainee seats include insurance-related personal injury departments such as motor and casualty, occupational disease, local authority and professional indemnity.
The standout BLM grade in our survey is for work/life balance – for which the firm gets an A*. Although the firm’s trainees arrive on average quite early (just after 8:30am) their average leave the office time is a fantastic 5:45pm. These relatively short hours facilitate a social life that trainees describe as “very good.” There is plenty of time to go out with colleagues in the evening, and “trainees take it upon themselves” to do so.
Though the firm does have 13 offices, it is worth highlighting that Manchester and London are by far the largest. BLM’s London gaff, off Fenchurch Street, is in the heart of the capital’s insurance district and overlooks the Institute of Risk Management. Lloyds of London, Zurich Insurance and Willis Towers Watson are all within walking distance. A quarter of the firm’s partners are based there, with a third in Manchester. Eight of the remaining 11 offices have fewer than ten partners or associates
The 20 annual trainees that BLM takes on are most likely to be working in either Manchester or London, with a handful based in Southampton, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow.