Having just won the contract for all Bass Brewers' lending work (The Lawyer, 30 July), the three-office firm of Gordons Cranswick is feeling rather pleased with itself, especially as it only took on its present form just over a year ago.
Edwards Geldard partner Michael Jeffs, who lost out to Gordons Cranswick for the Bass contract, says that a key factor in the Bass decision was geographical proximity.
Gordons Cranswick partner Paul Ayre says: “[Geography] must have been an issue, but we were already servicing at least half of Bass's work – we'd established ourselves as the pre-eminent firm for it.”
In any event, it was only four years ago that the work was shared nationally between 20 firms.
Gordons Cranswick's turnover for last year was £8m, with the Bass contract expected to add considerably to that. Ayre says: “We've now gone live. Two people transferred over from Bass and we've taken on a paralegal to deal with the volume of work. We should see an increase of over six figures on the fees.”
And confidence in the firm is growing, with other companies in the same industry sector as Bass showing an interest.
The firm is the result of a merger between Bradford firm Gordon Wright & Wright and Leeds-based Cranswick Watson. It consists of 28 partners with the majority being based in Bradford, although the fastest-developing site is Leeds. In April of this year, the Leeds office moved from its dusty old residence into a 9000sq ft open-plan building on Park Row. It has also injected £500,000 into its IT systems during the past 18 months, networking the three offices and installing video-conferencing facilities.
“We were already servicing at least half of Bass's work – we'd established ourselves as the pre-eminent firm for it”
Paul Ayre, Gordons Cranswick
Ayre is determined that the firm should be seen as innovative and flexible in its approach. “We're networked into the Bass system, which enables the instructions to come from the salespeople in the field, through Bass, to us. From here, it populates our documents, which then go out to the customers' lawyers. It's a streamlined, IT-driven process.”
The commercial property department is the strongest, billing £2m last year. The 15-strong team handles most of the work for Wm Morrison Supermarkets, all of the property work for Peter Black Holdings and also acts for Yorkshire Building Society.
Corporate partner Tim Ratcliffe recently acted for British Mohair Holdings regarding a contested acquisition. The board received an unwelcome bid from Camellia, followed by a more favourable one from Browallia International. The result was an increase in value to £21.6m. The firm's newest client is Hornbeam Park Developments following a recommendation from NM Rothschild.
Gordons Cranswick employs partners taken from some of its largest competitors. Deborah Powell joined from Walker Morris four years ago, Simon Leonard joined from Hammond Suddards Edge five years ago and Paul Ayre was hired from Pinsent Curtis (now Pinsent Curtis Biddle) eight years ago. Lateral hire partner Philip Paget from Keeble Hawson is the latest, joining in April. The firm has also appointed an IT director – Stephen Flemming – who came from the IT industry.
Ayre is realistic about the firm's future, saying that it will need to look to another merger in order to advance. The top six firms in Leeds are way above the rest of the market, but Ayre hopes by chasing them, he will pull ahead of the other mid-tier firms in the region.