Blandy & Blandy

After hundreds of years of experience, Blandys is unfazed by City competition

Few lawyers can number an (alleged) office ghost among their work colleagues, but it comes with the territory at Reading-based Blandy & Blandy. Ranked as the 25th oldest law firm in the country, Blandys' offices are built on the site of a leper house dating from the middle ages, and were bombed during World War II.
Yet the firm is not shy of moving forward, despite its impressive history (such as the infamous Mary Blandy, who was hanged in 1752 for poisoning her father out of love for a Scotsman). More than 5,000sq ft of office space was added onto the original building a couple of years ago, while another 2,000sq ft is due to be constructed in the near future.
According to Jacques Smith, partner in charge of commercial litigation, the plan is to “manage a sustainable, organic growth” without moving outside of Reading, where he claims the firm benefits from easy access to a whole host of industrial clients.
Given the firm's age, it is no surprise that private client work is crucial to the business, or that rich families still turn to Blandys for advice after hundreds of years of service.
But Smith claims that commercial work now accounts for about half of the practice, and he flags up areas such as personal injury and employment as particular strengths. The firm's planning offering has been boosted in recent weeks by the lateral hire of environmental specialist Simon Dimmick from rival firm Clarks (The Lawyer, 1 July).
“Dimmick is an out-and-out planner,” says Smith. “[His arrival] is very helpful as it will produce a new area of growth.”
Although an increasing amount of work now arrives from London – Smith estimates that around 30 per cent of work comes from outside Reading – the firm regards its position in the community as fundamental to success. “We're not really a local firm, but we do have deep roots in the local community,” says Smith, before mentioning that partner Nicholas Blandy is also the Sheriff of Berkshire.
Despite his reluctance to disclose any financial information on the firm's progress, Smith admits Blandys has managed a 20 to 25 per cent increase in turnover, year on year, since he joined the firm two years ago.
Senior partner Richard Griffiths has been at the helm for nine years and Smith says that he is keen to ensure that the firm maintains its culture during the current period of speedy growth.
Smith says: “The firm has always had an inclusive, collegiate approach to management and everything is discussed. This has positive implications for the firm because it means we never do anything outrageous.”
Smith predicts that future challenges will come in the shape of increased competition from London firms, which have started to cotton on to the fact that Reading is still a hotbed of economic prosperity, despite the current climate. “It's something that we're aware of and I think we're on top of our game,” he says. “There has always been an air of London lawyers looking down their noses at people from the provinces, but at the end of the day, a lot of our lawyers have come to us from City practices, including me. But we do see ourselves as providing a better service than central London solicitors – and at better rates.”