Firm profile: Schofield Sweeney

Eight-year-old Bradford-based firm Schofield Sweeney recently merged with long-established local rival Sampson Horner, which was founded in 1891.

For Schofield co-founding partner and chief executive Martin Sweeney the merger represents a return to his roots; he completed his training with Sampson Horner.

The merged firm, which will operate under the Schofield Sweeney name, has a combined turnover of £4m and a total of 40 lawyers, and is set to move into larger premises in the vicinity of Bradford Cathedral.

Prior to the merger, Schofield’s turnover was “just north of £3m”, says chairman and founding partner Chris Schofield.

Two years ago, Schofield also opened a second office in Leeds. “We had effectively grown out of our premises in Bradford and our corporate finance practice felt it needed representation in that market,” he explains. “It was also easier to recruit new lawyers there than in Bradford.”

Clients include Accent Group, Caddick, electronic engineers Filtronic (where Schofield used to be the in-house lawyer), software company Sandersons and Network Rail.

The firm’s biggest deals in recent months have been flotations, Schofield says, the largest of which was valued at £150m and are on-going projects.

However, Schofields says that the firm is really known for M&A transactions for “owner-managed businesses” and was involved in 27 of these last year, totalling £126m.

Quizzed on strategy, Schofield says: “Our opportunity is to act for businesses that 15 or 20 years ago would have been handled by AV Hammonds or Pinsent Masons, but were squeezed out as those firms have grown too large and moved on to bigger and better things.”

Although the firm has “no particular science” to its strategy, Schofield claims that it is well placed to act for owner-managed businesses.

But Schofield is frank that it is unlikely that the firm will follow in the footsteps of the larger nationals.

“I don’t see us ever being as big as Hammonds,” he admits. “But neither would we ever want to be.”

The firm has no plans for new practice areas, though Schofield says that tax and trust are going to be “significant areas” with the new expertise in those areas brought by from Sampson Horner.

The firm has no further mergers on the cards, but isn’t ruling anything out. It would consider another merger “if presented with a firm that would fit well with our business”, Schofield concludes.