Brief Encounter: Wright Hasssall
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Leamington Spa-based Wright Hassall says it has a relaxed attitude to work which is in direct contradiction to its name.
Founded in 1846 in Leamington Spa, it is a working example of life without logos. Partner Jane Senior says: "At the time, Wright Hassall simply didn't have those connotations." And the fact that the name has remained goes to show just how far out of the management consultant's reach this firm remains.
That is not to say that Wright Hassall should not be taken seriously. Between them, the 21 partners boast a wealth of expertise and the firm's agricultural niche is growing. Senior partner Robin Ogg is a recognised expert in agriculture and Carol Matthews and Philip Heath are listed as leading practitioners in housing law.
Wright Hassall is a standalone regional firm, not a regional branch of a larger firm. Described by one legal directory as "one of the rare regional powerhouses", it feels able to attract high-profile partners and clients with no need for a head office in the City. Three years ago, it managed to win head of property Tim Rowe from DLA. And recently, Laurie Heitzler has joined the firm from Pannone & Partners in Manchester.
Recent examples of major deals that Wright Hassall has acted on include advising on the sale of Tumble Tots UK, a nationwide chain of private nurseries, to a Japanese buyer. Clients on the agricultural side of the business have included British Waterways and the Royal Agricultural Society of England.
In housing, it was one of two firms appointed to advise Glasgow City Council on all aspects of a possible stock transfer involving 9,000 properties. This year has also seen Wright Hassall advising East Northamptonshire Council, Horsham District Council, East Staffordshire Borough Council and West Oxfordshire on major housing stock transfers.
The firm purports to offer its 21 partners and 67 fee-earners City-quality work but a relaxed work culture that is seldom found in the heart of London.
Senior is of the view that, often, the extra hours put in by City lawyers are unnecessary. "If you leave here at six o' clock, no one will consider you a part-timer. We treat everyone as adults here. As long as the work is done, partners, associates and trainees are free to do as they wish," she says.
The firm has not lost any partners in the past two years, so perhaps this ethos makes for a fulfiling working life. And with an annual turnover in excess of £6m, the no-hassle working culture at Wright Hassall does not seem to have a bad effect on the firm's finances.
Managing partner Peter Beddows, together with Ogg, oversees an executive committee. The committee is comprised of the four heads of department, as well as the managing and senior partners, and is involved in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the firm. And the total number of fee-earners has increased by 25 per cent over the past year.