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Brachers Solicitors" />Managing partner: John Sheath Turnover: £12m Total number of partners: 21 Total number of staff: 152 Main practice areas: Corporate and commercial, debt collection, litigation, property and private client Key clients: Eurotunnel, Kimberly-Clark, Mid Kent Water, NHS Litigation Authority and 49 health trusts Number of offices: Two Locations: Maidstone and London
"Kent and the South East is a growing area commercially and we're in the middle of it," says John Sheath, managing partner of Maidstone-based firm Brachers Solicitors. He points to the influx of work from the massive Thames Gateway development project and the expansion of the international rail terminal at Ashford.
Since joining the firm 24 years ago, Sheath claims that Brachers has grown from a traditional market town practice with a strong connection to the farming community into a modern commercial practice.
"We help service the industries that are around us, but we still have strong links with the agricultural community," he says. "Our property work is linked to the agricultural world, whereas our commercial department has driven ahead at a very much faster pace."
A thriving private client department led to the growth of its specialist investment arm, Ashcourt Asset Management, which demerged from the firm five years ago. It went on to acquire the financial services divisions of firms including Blake Lapthorn Linnell, Lawrence Graham and DMH Stallard and was bought out on the London Stock Exchange in September by Syndicate Asset Management. "[Ashcourt] grew out of the firm's private client investment portfolio and blossomed into a major undertaking," explains Sheath. "The strong links have helped to raise the firm's profile in all sorts of ways."
Brachers prides itself on being a full-service law firm. It has a strong healthcare department, which is on the NHS
Litigation Authority panel, and advises 49 trusts, the largest debt recovery unit in the South (acting for "a major credit card"), plus an expanding commercial law presence.
The firm's commercial team scored a notable victory in 2002 when it represented Eurotunnel in a High Court victory over the Home Office, when its illegal immigrant civil penalty regime was overturned. The Home Office was ordered to pay Eurotunnel a six-figure sum towards its legal costs.
The commercial team also represented Fuji Seal Europe in a £900,000 breach of contract claim in the High Court last year.
Sheath claims that it is an important time for the firm. "We've lost five senior partners in the last three years," he comments. The solicitor points out that the departures were expected, as the firm had a number of partners of similar seniority. "It's enabled us to introduce some new people to fill their shoes and drive us forward," he adds.
He says that the firm has so far had a successful year, with turnover up 8 per cent on the same period last year.
"There's now a real sense of unity and collegiate support, which is helping us to build on past successes," says Sheath.