Ashfords eyes property development practice

Ashfords eyes property development practiceExeter-based Ashfords is considering a radical plan to add on a property ­development arm once UK regulations allow it to seek external investment.

The firm is examining a range of options related to external investment that have been created by the introduction of the Legal Services Act. Among these is a plan to bring together the firm’s property-related expertise, including lawyers and non-legal staff, under one property development roof.

“Why shouldn’t we?” says Ashfords chief executive Ian Daniells. “The Legal Services Act will create several opportunities for attracting external investment funding into specific areas of our firm, such as our volume conveyancing unit. But there’s no reason why it should be restricted to that.”

Ashfords demerged from Bevan Ashford in 2004. Since then the South West firm has developed its own identity with a number of local and regional clients, such as the University of Exeter, the Welsh Assembly and Wandsworth Borough Council.

The firm has been steadily moving up the ranks of the UK’s largest firms, posting a turnover of £24.8m for the 2007-08 financial year, ­compared with £19.5m in 2005, the first year following its demerger.

Last year average profit at Ashfords stood at £357,000 – a 59 per cent increase on 2005’s figure of £225,000.

An injection of external capital could help the firm rise further up the table. In the meantime, Ashfords is focusing primarily on building up its core legal practices, which include projects and PFI, private client and ­general commercial work.