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Bishop Longbotham & Bagnall Solicitors (or, as it would prefer to be known in these days of abbreviated law firm names, BL&B Solicitors) perhaps sums up the dilemma faced by many established regional firms early in the 21st century. Should they keep the faith and retain tried-and-trusted ways of doing things, or jettison the status quo in favour of trendy alternatives, such as open-plan offices and allowing fee-earners to work from home? BL&B’s practice development partner Gwyn Randolph has tried to find the best of both worlds.
“We’re perceived by our clients as being practical, friendly and down-to-earth, and that’s an image we want to preserve,” says Randolph. “But just as we want to keep our core values, we recognise that we need to move with the times and look at alternative ways of doing things. We’ve been evaluating things recently and undergoing a refocussing process.”
With this in mind, a new and “much improved” website will be launched within a few weeks, hot on the heels of a new marketing campaign. “Historically, we’ve been relatively low-key in terms of marketing, but we believe the time is right to raise our profile,” says Randolph.
The firm enjoys a good presence in Wiltshire, something it has developed organically since the firm was established in 1979. “We’re a traditional regional general practice,” says Randolph. “That’s where we came from. But while we’re still a general practice, the nature of our work has been evolving and continues to evolve.” The head office is in Trowbridge, and a large part of the firm’s work is claimant personal injury (PI), with six of its fee-earners being PI panel members.
BL&B has recently added to its company commercial practice, and Randolph sees this as an area that will continue to grow. Commercial property is also a priority, as the firm seeks to pick up more work from further along the M4 corridor.
Another development is a sign of the times: only the Swindon office, currently being modernised, continues to undertake work funded by the Legal Services Commission. “We’ve found that our private family work, for example, has increased dramatically, at the same time as the bureaucracy surrounding publicly-funded family work gets worse,” says Randolph. But the Swindon office also maintains a highly regarded criminal law practice, with two higher court advocates there having taken cases to the Court of Appeal.
Randolph sees BL&B as “continuing to expand organically” over the next few years. The firm may not have jumped on the bandwagon of open-plan offices, and its management structure may remain traditional, but BL&B appears to have a clear and measured sense of where it is going.
Practice development partner
Total number of partners
Total number of solicitors
Main practice areas
Claimant personal injury, commercial property, company/commercial, crime and family
Helphire, local and regional developers and M4 corridor companies