Foot Anstey markets itself as a full-service firm, able to run a commercial practice in parallel with a profitable legal aid practice.
In the past year the West Country firm has gone through two mergers – the first with Plymouth-based Serpell Eaton Solicitors in August, followed by Cornwall-based Hancock Caffin in September.
The mergers have contributed to the firm’s growing turnover, which has increased to £18m – pushing it up to 103 in The Lawyer’s UK 200 list from the 2007 position of 112. Managing partner Jane Lister anticipates that turnover will swell to £20m by the end of the 2007-08 financial year.
Prior to the mergers the firm’s reach into Cornwall was limited. Now it has a presence in several rural towns across the county, which has helped it develop an agricultural practice. This is a growing area that Lister hopes will eventually boost Foot Anstey’s private client group.
Lister says the firm’s corporate work already feeds into the private client practice. The corporate practice makes up approximately half of the firm’s turnover. This includes a commercial property team, which sits alongside a non-legal planning consultancy.
As the West Country becomes an ever-more attractive place for commercial entities, Foot Anstey has cashed in. “There’s a lot of activity in commercial property and no signs of it slowing down in the region,” says Lister.
Foot Anstey has bucked the trend of legal aid firms withdrawing from the sector – it recently won a Legal Service Commission contract for high cost cases across the region, for example.
The firm has employed Ray Chalmers as a business excellence director, who, Lister says, keep clients coming back. The biggest chunk of the firm’s work comes from customer recommendations. “In our region it’s all about client service and there’s a huge amount of customer loyalty,” she says.
The firm has also won a few new customers recently. It won a place on Northcliffe Newspapers’ legal panel after a beauty parade and was awarded an advisory position for chewing gum manufacturer Wrigleys, which has a major factory in Plymouth.
The next step for Foot Anstey is to consider the implementation of the Legal Services Act.
Lister suggests that any firm taking on outside investment should have a critical mass of £50m. “The market’s going to change quite significantly,” she says. “The concept of outside investment is quite exciting.”
Managing partner: Jane Lister
Number of partners: 40
Number of lawyers: 152
Main practice areas: Family, property and construction litigation, corporate, agriculture, legal aid, private client, public sector
Key clients: Health and Safety Executive; Diving Research Centre, Plymouth; Northcliffe Newspapers; South Devon College
Number of offices: Four
Location: Plymouth, Truro, Exeter, Taunton