Total number of partners: Seven
Total number of staff: 25
Main practice areas: Commercial property, company and commercial, dispute resolution, employment, family, personal injury, private client
Key clients: Done Brothers (Cash Betting), Johnson & Johnson, McKinnon & Clarke, Premiere Employment Group, Tetrad
Number of offices: One
South Manchester law firm Myers Lister Price (MLP) has just signed off a multimillion-pound deal on behalf of the world’s largest independent bookmaker Done Brothers, better known as Betfred, to give the company’s clients exclusive betting rights with Wembley Stadium. The Altrincham-based firm was working opposite London’s Bird & Bird, advising Wembley. MLP claims the instruction represents “a significant step” for its national ambitions.
The firm has evolved from an inner city high street legal aid practice, set up in Northenden, Manchester in 1989, to a general commercial practice which relocated to Altrincham, in the heart of Cheshire, five years ago. “The clients knew us for our commercial services and they were quite happy to come into Northenden, but our problem was that it was difficult to attract good staff,” says managing partner Michael Lister, who, along with Jeremy Lee, founded the firm. MLP’s workload is fairly evenly divided between its three departments – commercial property, general commercial and private client (including family and personal injury). “The sort of clients we’re going for are the owner-managed businesses with turnovers of £25m, as well as the entrepreneurs,” Lister says.
The move five years ago proved a successful strategy in terms of attracting new blood from the big Manchester firms, which MLP sees as its competition. It has since recruited at partner level two lawyers from Cobbets and one from Pannone & Partners. “Since 2000 we now have an unusually high concentration of ‘city centre’ partners for a firm that’s based outside Manchester, and a partner of that calibre for each department,” says Lister. “We’re like the rolling stone gathering moss.” The plan is for each department to grow steadily over the next two years, with a view to doubling the turnover by 2007.
“From now on the focus is on organic growth rather than lateral hiring,” Lister says. He says the firm has a “distinct culture”, which it wants to retain as it grows, hence the policy to rely on home-grown talent. So how does the firm define its culture? “We have a very keen attention not just to our clients’ legal requirements, but to their wider needs,” Lister replies. “We provide a complete solution to clients working with other professions where necessary, we’re creative and there’s a lot of out-of-the-box thinking.”
MLP also claims to have a policy of what Lister calls “transparent proactivity” on costs. The firm’s hourly rates are not only cheaper than those of its rival Manchester firms, which, as the lawyer acknowledges, have to be “by necessity” offered to target clients, but the firm also offers a “partner-led perspective to ensure goals are met within tight timetables and within a costs budget”. He adds: “We have a real commitment to ensuring that the client actually pays for progress and not just for work in progress.”