Brief encounter: fenners

Fenners is a small London firm, specialising in corporate finance and commercial property. According to managing partner Robert Fenner, specialising in these two areas has its advantages. One area is busy when the other is quiet, thus ensuring a consistent workflow.

Fenners also promotes itself as specialising in technology, including internet and e-commerce law, but says that it is not reliant on technology companies as clients. The firm stresses that it researches carefully any such clients before accepting their business, and that it has a 100 per cent "good client" record.

One of Fenners' larger deals last year was acting for the vendor on the £60m sale of smart-groups.com to freeserve. It has also acted for telecoms software business Cramer Systems on a venture capital investment in November 2000, raising $26m (£17.7m) from US venture capitalists Broadview Capital Partners and Kennet Capital. It recently acted for Camellia in a £21.2m recommended offer for British Mohair Holdings, an engineering equipment and yarns manufacturer.

For a small practice, Fenners has handled a number of public offerings, including a £35m placing and public offering for Helphire Group, which deals in credit hire and repair; it also obtained a £50m banking facility for the group, acting opposite Travers Smith Braithwaite, which represented the banking syndicate. In corporate finance, the firm advised education services group Protocol Associates on the £74.3m debt and equity funding of two Spring Group acquisitions.

Senior partner John Fenner is Robert Fenner's father, but with three other partners, Robert Fenner insists that the firm is not run as a family practice. He was one of Berwin Leighton's senior partners and also its head of property before departing to set up Fenners.

Partner and head of banking David Wisbey handles corporate work with Robert Fenner. The commercial property department is headed by Caroline Frampton, whose clients include Books Etc and Nationwide Building Society. Jeremy Raj is the fifth partner, home-grown to the firm and in charge of the residential advisory practice. The firm has 20 other legal staff and 10 support staff.

Firmly situated in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) market, Fenners has ambitions to ramp up the corporate side. It aims to provide top-quality advice to businesses on the medium-sized company rung. It also wants to muscle in on some deals which were the traditional preserve of the magic circle, for example takeover bids.

To continue to compete in this market, the firm will require international expertise. Fenners currently has informal associations with firms in Europe and the US, but declines to name them.

Firm-wide turnover has grown by 40 per cent year on year. However, it is still a relatively young firm, only being set up in 1994.

Fenners' strategy is to continue to focus on its specialist areas. It has no plans to be a full-service firm. For the immediate future it is aiming for organic growth. In such a tight recruitment market its development will in part be measured by the calibre of the lawyers it attracts to the firm.