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After outgrowing its Lincoln base, Bridge McFarland is marking 2009 as the year to expand its presence in the North East.
Having grown from a high street practice into a personal injury (PI) and clinical negligence specialist, the firm is broadening its outlook. Over the past year it has made hay while the downturn took hold, hiring two new partners and making preparations to open a new office in Doncaster in May.
“We originally opened in Hull to exploit the PI and clinical negligence market in the city,” explains the firm’s chief executive Darryn Hedges. “We can’t expand east because we’d be in the North Sea, so west was the obvious option, and the Doncaster market is very similar to Hull’s.”
The bulk of the firm is in Lincoln, Grimsby, Louth and Hull, with three satellite offices in other areas. Hedges, who joined from Addleshaw Goddard two years ago, sees future revenue growth coming from Lincoln, Grimsby and Hull, as well as the new Doncaster office. Currently manned by four people, the firm plans to double the Doncaster headcount over the next 12-16 months and build on the 5-10 per cent growth expected in the 2008-09 financial year.
It has been a strong 12 months for the firm. However, billings such as those seen in what Hedges says was the firm’s “best-ever month” of April 2008 are unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future.
The recent hire of Dickinson Dees partner Mark Warburton should help, boosting non-contentious commercial work, which makes up just 12 per cent of the firm’s revenue, compared with some 45 per cent from PI and clinical negligence.
“We feel very optimistic about the future,” says Hedges. “Some 18 months ago I don’t think we could have attracted Mark, but we’ve increased our presence in the North East and now we’re a good fit for him and he’ll be good for us.”
One of the few firms in the region to have not made redundancies, Bridge McFarland is primed for mergers with smaller firms, all the while looking to steal a march on North East rival Wilkin Chapman.
Firm:Bridge McFarland Chief executive: Darryn Hedges Turnover:£7m Number of partners: 22 Number of equity partners: 14 Number of lawyers:44 Number of fee-earners:100 Number of offices:Seven Locations: Grimsby, Hull, Lincoln, Louth, Mablethorpe, Market Rasen, Skegness Main practice areas:Clinical negligence, personal injury/serious injury, dispute resolution, family and childcare, commercial, private client, employment Clients:New Lynx Housing Trust, One World Foods, Eastern Shires Housing Association