Shann is keen to play down the effect of the resignation of the office's senior partner Richard Collier last May. His resignation followed a reprimand last summer from the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors for drawing up a will for an elderly relative in which he was bequeathed £45,000. Collier is still part of the firm, but no longer holds his figurehead role. At the time, it was understood that he was negotiating taking early retirement from the partnership. “The reprimand wasn't good news, but there were many worse things that could have happened,” says Shann. “Richard's a vicar; he is still a vicar. He has a high profile in the community.”
With experience gained on the Bloody Sunday inquiry in Londonderry, Eversheds is currently assisting and advising on the Harold Shipman inquiry. Charles Holloway, head of litigation in East England, is leading the investigation. The first stage is to interview the families of the victims and the families of the potential victims, to establish how big the case is. The second will be to interview the police, the health authority and all of the other parties involved.
Statistics pertaining to Eversheds' Norwich office over the past few years have been very positive, but can this level of performance be maintained?
One of the largest recent deals that Eversheds has handled is the £232m takeover of turkey producer Bernard Matthews. Shann passes the credit for winning that deal to Adrian Possener, who led the high-profile sale. Without experienced lawyers like him in local offices, such companies would certainly turn to the City firms, says Shann. As a result, much of Shann's job focuses on the recruitment, motivation and retention of top-quality lawyers.
With 120 lawyers over two offices, the firm's budget this year is £14.2m, and with a growth rate of over 30 per cent, the fastest growing area is employment. Owen Warnock leads a team offering employment advice, training and a human resources consultancy, an area from which Shann expects continued growth. “It saves clients potential legal costs. We have a very strong brand in employment; we're the national leaders, acknowledged by everybody,” claims Shann. All other areas have been growing by about 20 per cent, although Shann is doubtful as to the scale of future growth considering the current state of the stock market.
Eversheds won the new Norfolk Constabulary Police Headquarters deal over both Mills & Reeve and an unnamed London firm, and both Mills & Reeve and Eversheds are involved in the Norwich Millennium Library project. “We did a big job for Norwich City Council with the externalisation of its direct labour force to City Care,” explains Shann. “That was £270m worth of deal. Another major local deal is the outer harbour at Great Yarmouth in which we're advising East Port (Great Yarmouth).
“This deal is in its early stages and is ongoing. We have a big deal with Kings Lynn Borough Council. They're developing a substantial area of land adjacent to the A47; it is a long-term project for them, which will redevelop a large chunk of Kings Lynn. It involves planning, property and all sorts – we're very busy.” Other clients that Eversheds acts for from its Norwich office include Eastern Counties News Group, Dairy Crest, NHP and Norwich City Football Club.