Firm profile: Withy King

Withy King managing partner Martin Powell is unequivocal in his commitment to new ways of doing things. “To move with the times a firm has to be run as a business, not a traditional partnership,” he argues. “You’ve got to recognise the value of your capital assets and finds ways to value the firm’s work-in-progress and its goodwill in a way that keeps everyone enthused.”

Powell’s vision has seen the firm double its turnover in the past three years. Over five years there has been a 100 per cent increase in staff, and Powell sees Withy King as being a £15m business within the next five years.

“One of our strategic advantages is that all the partners are pulling together with a can-do attitude,” claims Powell. He says he has thought long and hard about the nature of leadership, which he argues comes down to three things. “You’ve got to have a vision of the future, an idea of how to inspire people to achieve it and the means to keep the momentum going,” he says.

Indicative of its rise and the kind of work it is handling, the firm recently attained national prominence in acting for Natallie Evans in a case brought by her to prevent the destruction of frozen embryos created with the sperm of her former partner. The case is due in the Court of Appeal before the end of March and raises complex legal
issues surrounding consent and the right to life.

Withy King also undertakes substantial corporate and commercial work and has a dedicated private client team. The corporate department recently advised on a share purchase for a subsidiary of the Bonnier Group, Scandinavia’s largest media publisher. It was complicated by the fact that the target company had granted numerous share options to its employees under different employee share schemes, all of which had to be harmonised.

Powell’s innovative philosophy is reflected in the development of two retail outfits – Complete Conveyancing and Accrue Investments – under the Withy King umbrella, as well as his attitude to client care.
“After every transaction we analyse how we’ve performed,” says Powell. “We’re flexible about fees and happy to use retainers or fixed fees so that a client doesn’t have to worry about spiralling legal costs.” No surprise, then, that Withy King won the Wiltshire Business of the Year Award for 2003.

But Powell knows that success ultimately comes down to people. “Our support staff are vital,”he says. “You’ve got to have the right people in the right jobs. It’s no good putting a goalkeeper up front and expecting him to score goals. I’ll always listen to the experts here, say in marketing, IT or accounts.”

There is one other thing that Withy King is pioneering – alliances with smaller firms. For example, it sub-licenses its IT systems to smaller firms that may not have the financial clout to fund their own systems. “The legal profession is changing all the time, and increasingly lawyers need to pool their resources. I’m a big believer in alliances and sharing knowledge,” says Powell.

Withy King
Managing partner Martin Powell
Turnover £9m
Total number of partners 25
Total number of solicitors 51
Main practice areas Clinical negligence, personal injury and private client
Key clients Natallie Evans, James Dyson, Bath Spa Project and Care Village Group
Number of offices Six
Locations Bath, Chippenham, Marlborough, Swindon and Trowbridge