Burt Brill & Cardens entertained 100 of its clients last week at a party featuring the work of the UK's next generation of artists.
Managing partner: David Edwards Turnover: £2m Total number of partners: Four Total number of lawyers: 15 Main practice areas: Conveyancing, employment, family, personal injury, private client and wills and probate Key clients: Martlets Hospice and University of Brighton Number of offices: Three Location: Brighton, East Grinstead and Worthing
Previous exhibitors at the bash include Turner Prize winners Rachel Whiteread and Keith Tyson. The local firm has sponsored the University of Brighton's Graduate Show, which comes hot on the heels of the Brighton Festival, for 10 consecutive years. According to managing partner David Edwards, the sponsorship has evolved alongside the growth and expansion of the firm. "It's an annual celebration of our legal creativity in action and the enormous talent among local students," he says.
The firm was founded in 1897 by Sir Herbert Carden, a respected Fabian socialist who was mayor of Brighton three times. He was also one of the leading lights behind establishing the Alliance Building Society, set up with the idea of helping people buy their own homes. The law firm's office was the building society's external head office. Kenneth Edwards (David's father) presided over the firm as Alliance's assets topped £100m in the 1960s. The firm stopped acting for the building society when it merged and relocated, becoming Alliance & Leicester.
But does the firm still have socialist roots? Even the last vestiges of its past, the red railings outside its main office, have gone, Edwards reports. "The firm has always prided itself on acting for a good range of people and we still act for little old ladies who've only got a few hundred quid," he continues. "But the idealism of 1930s socialism isn't something that's much present these days. What we want to do is act for people and small and medium-sized enterprises. We aren't interested in acting for large corporations."
The relatively recent re-emergence of Brighton as 'London-by-the-sea' has been a boon to a firm that acts mostly for smaller clients (with the exception of the University of Brighton). "The large firms have a desire to just work for the plcs, and I think there's a real market that they're moving away from," Edwards says. "What we're about is trying to offer the same standard of client care and professionalism of those large firms, but just to a different audience. We aren't after the managing director of the plc with his corporate problems, other than to act for him as an individual and relate to him on that level."
The firm has launched a new trainee solicitor programme and took on two recruits last October. It is planning on 50 per cent growth over the next five years. "Where we try and distinguish ourselves from the competition is that we're really interested in people and giving them a valued solution, rather than taking them for a ride on costs," says Edwards. "No solicitor would admit to running their firms like that, but the reality is that they do."