Firm profile: Steeles Law

Steeles Law recently changed its name from Steeles, but it was not just an attempt at a flashy rebrand, the firm decided to change its name because its web address was very close to that of a car dealer.

“It was a cynical decision, but a practical one,” says Steeles Law managing partner Stephen Drake.

Steeles Law was originally a Diss-based high street firm that specialised in private client and agriculture work. It has grown steadily by acquisition and now has three main offices in Diss, London and Norwich.

In 1992 it consolidated its network of regional offices in Norfolk and North Suffolk and relocated to a business park in Norwich, which became the head office.

Steeles was the first firm to take over the running of an entire legal department for a local authority when it took over legal services for Broadland District Council in 1994. This was a long-term contract, which was extended in 2000, and was the launchpad to the firm’s move into the public sector.

In 1997 Steeles opened a small London office to support the growing public sector clients. The firm now works for more than 40 public sector organisation, 14 of which are London borough councils.

Drake says the firm decided at the time that it would be more viable to open a London office and take advantage of the work there rather than start more offices in the Norfolk area.

In its 10-year existence the London office has grown from a handful of staff to 50 and now contributes 50 per cent of the firm’s turnover.

Steeles’ strategic growth is based around the commercial and public sectors and looks outwardly at niche markets (to form client-facing practice groups) to support its key areas.

Steeles’ main practice areas are property, which brings in 42 per cent of the firm’s turnover, commercial (29 per cent) and litigation (29 per cent), but it has recently branched out into media and immigration, taking advantage of some choice lateral hires.

In the media sector Steeles already acts for television channel Al Jazeera after partner Steven Fisher joined the firm’s commercial practice from Edmonds Bowen in 2002.

“That’s the way we see ourselves going,” says Drake.

Eighteen months ago the firm also branched out into immigration to complement the firm’s employment and private client functions.

The firm’s turnover for the last financial year was £8.9m, a healthy 25.4 per cent up on the previous year.

Managing partner: Stephen Drake Turnover: £9 million Total number of equity partners: 4 Total number of partners: 20 Total number of lawyers: 56 Main practice areas: Real estate, corporate, litigation.

Key clients: London Burrough of Lambeth, Premier Foods, Bourne Leisure, Al Jazeera Number of offices: Three Locations: Diss and Norwich in Norfolk, and London