Brief encounter: mills & reeve

The Cambridge department of Mills & Reeve is very pleased with itself. With 25 of the company's 60 partners and 125 of the 260 solicitors, it earns around 50 per cent of the firm's total £25m turnover. The branches in Norwich, Birmingham and London have got a bit of catching up to do. Even so, the firm has fulfilled its four-year strategic plan a year ahead of schedule.

Corporate services group partner Graham Menzies attributes much of this success to the rapidly developing business climate in Cambridge.

Trent Britt, a US niche technology and intellectual property firm which acts for the likes of Micron, Hewlett-Packard and Akzo Nobel, has recently approached Mills & Reeve to form an alliance and establish a European office. The firm chose Cambridge because it was the biggest cluster of high-tech and biotech companies in Europe.

Menzies says: "It is exactly what a number of our clients are looking for. With 80 to 90 per cent of our clients' business being done overseas, an increasing amount of their work is subject to US law. We need to make sure we can provide a global service."

Mills & Reeve claims to have beaten several City firms to the alliance.

The UK Government has recently put $100m (£69.6m) into a joint venture between the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, which Mills & Reeve put together. This deal built access to the East Coast of the US. According to Menzies, the development of the US market is "a necessary consequence of acting for technology companies and other global businesses". And being a member of the State Capital Law Firm Group, the firm has links with those in the US that are able to lobby local states.

Mills & Reeve is currently advising Zeus Technology, one of Cambridge's rising stars, and ink-jet printing specialist Xaar. But the firm has recently suffered the loss of the NHS local authority contract. This has resulted in medical negligence partner John Chapman moving on to Kennedys to set up in Newmarket to service the NHS local authority. The Birmingham branch felt the blow hardest, but some of the Norwich team also left.

But Menzies is optimistic. "We have just got a very strong planning partner out of Herbert Smith [David Brock]. He was involved in the planning of Kings Cross and the Channel Tunnel, so has a strong following. We have twice as many leading individuals than any of the other firms and with substantial investment in IT, we are very much sector led. Alasdair Poore, who heads the technology team, is very bright. He got a first in Life Sciences at Cambridge University before we captured him."

Mills & Reeve is also building its PFI portfolio, and recently handled a major deal between Imperial College and Ericsson. Nokia and Vocalis are other big clients.

In last year's The Lawyer 100 Survey, average profits per partner were £152,000, with top of equity at £158,000, giving the firm a ranking of 60. With the aborted merger with Birmingham-based Martineau Johnson as a blot on last year's activities, Mills & Reeve will be hoping that the buoyant Cambridge market will boost its profitability as it approaches the end of the financial year.