Firm profile: Kester Cunningham

“Firms need to get bigger, they need to be prepared to do big things,” proclaims Kester Cunningham John managing partner Simon Smith.

“That’s why we’re doing in three years what most firms take five years to achieve,” he adds.

Three years ago Few & Kester merged with Cunningham John to create Kester Cunningham John, a 23-partner firm with a turnover of £8m.

Today Kester Cunningham is expecting the current financial year’s turnover to come in at £12m and has its sights set firmly on posting a revenue of £16m by 2010.

The ambitious managing partner, who took the helm of the firm after the merger, steered it through a complete management overhaul in 2006.

“In 2006 we completely restructured the firm’s management. We brought in a new HR manager and a new business development director; we made changes to drive the firm forward,” says Smith.

“It was tough but necessary,” he adds, with the reshuffle resulting in departures as well as new hires.

But with the changes came promise.

“A lot of clients have come to us now that we’re a larger firm, and size also makes a big difference in recruitment,” Smith explains.

The commercial practice is the backbone of the firm, generating around half of the turnover and housing 50 lawyers. The department encompasses the firm’s banking, property and planning, commercial disputes and employment practices.

Major commercial projects include acting for Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council on the planning inquiry of indoor ski resort SnOasis, the largest single construction project in the area. Other property clients include Ashwell Property Group.

The firm also has a private client offering that deals with claimant personal injury (PI) and clinical negligence as well as tax, trust and family law. PI and clinical negligence, based almost exclusively in the firm’s Thetford branch, turned over £1.2m and £750,000 respectively. Private client and family represents a quarter of the business, with nearly £2.7m in revenue.

Smith also explains that the firm has a joint venture with accountancy firm Price Bailey, bringing together legal and financial planning expertise, while simultaneously increasing cross-selling.

Although there are no plans for a second merger, Smith does not rule out the possibility.

“If other firms want to talk, we’ll talk to them, but there must be a strategic reason,” he emphasises.

Managing partner: Simon Smith
Turnover: £10.7m
Total number of partners: 26
Total number of lawyers: 87
Main practice areas: Commercial, property, planning, private client
Key clients: Cambridge University, Suffolk County Council Number of offices: Four
Main office: Cambridge