Battens

South West firm Battens celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. To commemorate the event, managing director David Stephens says the firm has undertaken “a root and branch review of its business”.

Managing director:

David Stephens
Turnover: £7m
Total number of partners: 14 directors (equivalent to partners)
Total number of staff: 60
Key clients: Abbey Manor Group, CG Fry & Son, Panberg, Westland Helicopters
Key practice areas: Civil litigation, family law, planning, residential conveyancing, M&A, commercial property, land use, employment
Number of offices: Four
Location: Dorchester, Sherborne, Weymouth and Yeovil

South West firm Battens celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. To commemorate the event, managing director David Stephens says the firm has undertaken “a root and branch review of its business”.

The firm has implemented a range of changes as a result, including dividing off its volume conveyancing and volume personal injury businesses, and becoming one of the first firms in the region to fully incorporate.

Battens is now focusing on its traditional private client work and commercial practice. Private client work comprises civil litigation, family law, planning and residential conveyancing, while commercial work includes M&A, commercial property, land use and employment law.

Typical deals that the firm has acted on in recent months include the acquisition of Solstice Industrial Park in Wiltshire by property developer Abbey Manor, a negligence action against the Ministry of Defence over a fatal Royal Navy aeroplane crash, and a successful planning appeal for a travelling showmen’s site in rural Hampshire.

Stephens attributes the firm’s success to “directors who are very good in their fields”, singling out head of commercial property Rupert Vaughan, head of the private client team William Christopher and head of agricultural law Robert Unwin.

The firm has hired 10 lawyers during the past year, five of whom joined at or above senior associate level and were partners at their previous firms. However, Stephens stresses that Battens “very much believes in career structure” and, as such, most of the firm’s directors have worked their way up the ranks.

Among the 10 hires was Bhavani Hogarty, who joined from Foot Anstey Sargent and will head the property litigation team.

Stephens says the firm’s plan for the coming months is to “build teams to expand on current strengths”. This includes creating new teams in developer construction, town and country planning, and employment, which Stephens describes as “practices in which the firm has traditionally been strong, and for which in Somerset and Dorset there is a good market that we feel we can serve better”.

Targeting the South West region outside of the cities, Battens sees itself as in competition with large city-based firms in the region that have satellite offices, such as Osborne Clarke, Clark Willmott and Ashfords.

Stephens says the firm wants to grow “organically rather than through mergers”, although it is always on the look out for good hires.

Since incorporating, Battens operates a “full board” of 14 directors, one of whom, Leanne Weatherill, was appointed on Thursday (2 March), having previously been senior associate on the family team. The firm is run by a management committee of five including Stephens.

Jon Parker