JMW Solicitors" />Not many law firms would choose to close their offices for an afternoon, but so seriously does Manchester outfit JMW Solicitors take its plans for the future that it did precisely that. As managing partner Bill Jones says: "We shut down for the afternoon of 22 October and hired a hotel to cater for 150 people. We warned clients that we'd be unavailable and held a seminar for the afternoon so that everyone in the firm could understand where we were going and what our plans are. It was a great success."
JMW, founded in 1978, was until this year Jones Maidment Wilson. The rebranding came at the beginning of the firm's financial year and was undertaken to herald a move to plush new offices and the introduction of a new practice management system. "We're increasing our available space from 16,000sq ft to 40,000," says Jones, the founding partner. "We're going to be at the heart of the Spinning Field, a new commercial development in Manchester, close to the courts and next to huge companies such as the Royal Bank of Scotland."
Planning permission has been acquired to build a new nine-storey building in the car park of JMW's existing Manchester offices. The building will have state-of-the-art training, video-conferencing and IT facilities, as well as a library and on-site catering facilities. Jones expects work to begin in April 2004 and the move to be completed by 2006. "As soon as the work begins we'll be preparing for the move proper and looking to recruit top-class people," he says.
According to Jones, though, JMW is not about to change its core values. "We're all from Manchester and want to keep a grassroots approach," he says. "In that sense, I think we're unique: few large firms combine the kind of commercial work we do with legal aid and crime."
The commercial work can be specialised - for example, the acquisition of sites for clients such as Marks & Spencer and intellectual property litigation - but as a firm on the Legal Services Commission's panel, and with a substantial criminal practice, JMW does, as Jones says, "keep in touch with real people". Indicative of this is the firm's 'Law Access' scheme: once enrolled in the scheme, members have access to legal advice on a 24-hour basis. "The initial advice is free," says Jones. "The scheme is open to absolutely anyone."
Jones devotes his time to managing the firm and is helped by dedicated accounts, marketing, IT and administration teams. He has forthright views on the role of a managing partner, unequivocally stating that "the days when a managing partner could combine fee-earning with managing" have gone forever. But a total commitment to management does have considerable upsides. "My fee-earning is dwarfed by the financial success of the firm over the last five years, when I took up management on a full-time basis." With such drive, JMW's plan to build its turnover to £10m by the time of the office move looks to be in safe hands.
Total number of partners
Total number of solicitors
Main practice areas
Clinical negligence, commercial, commercial litigation, family, legal aid and private client
Asda, Legal Services Commission, Marks & Spencer and Tesco