Brief encounter: Mace & Jones

There have been two defining moments in the 73-year history of North-West firm Mace & Jones.

The first was the implementation of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 under Edward Heath. The new legislation turned the firm into one of the North West's most highly respected employment practices, while making head of employment Martin Edwards one of the leaders in his field.

The other occasion was Mace & Jones' merger with Cheshire-based Grundy Kershaw, giving it coverage throughout four main areas of the North West.

The firm first opened its doors in Liverpool in 1927 under the leadership of Daryl Mace and Mawgan Jones who joined from an earlier incarnation of today's Hill Dickinson.

At its inception, Mace's role as an agent for the Director of Public Prosecutions brought in work, while the firm was also focused on transport.

Its expertise in the later area acted as a springboard to service a range of businesses rather than remaining sector specific, while it soon expanded its reach by opening its second office in Huyton.

However, it was the advent of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 that had a profound effect on the firm. Mace & Jones moved into this area with force because of the corporate and commercial leads interaction with employers might bring.

The practice is now one of the firm's most important and counts multinational energy giant Shell among its clients.

The firm's contacts in employment have also yielded commercial work for the firm, specifically from small to medium businesses.

For example, it acted for Chemdal on the sale of its manufacturing operation to BASF this year, and it acted for business to business software company BSoftB on its £37m flotation on AIM.

The firm claims that its main competitors are those which offer a full service including local practice Pannone & Partners and Nottingham-based Freethcartwright.

Mace & Jones continued to grow and opened in Manchester in 1983. The last piece of the firm's jigsaw fell into place when it merged with Manchester and Cheshire-based firm Grundy Kershaw in February 1996, which increased Mace & Jones' partner count to 19.

The firm has significantly grown since the merger and now houses 26 partners and 42 assistants.

Of those partners, a relatively huge 10, based in the Liverpool and Manchester offices, concentrate on the firm's property practice.

The firm has steadily built up a name for itself in this area. It represented Peel Holdings on a complex deal involving the proposed development of an international airport at Doncaster. The transaction included the purchase of the former RAF base at Finningley from the Ministry of Defence.

Two years ago, Mace & Jones also set up an alliance with Wake Dyne Lawton, a local firm specialising in planning environmental minerals and waste law.

With such an emphasis on property work, the link-up allows Mace & Jones to ensure a full service for its clients without expending on a very specialised area.