Move On Up: Capsticks

Health and social care firm Capsticks has been in consistent growth mode for the past six years, and the good news for associates is that management has taken a view that internal promotion is vital.

Off the back of a 13 per cent revenue rise between 2009-10 and 2010-11, Capsticks promoted five lawyers to partner and three to equity partner at the start of this financial year. The recent promotions follow a trend skewed heavily towards recognising internal talent in the past few years.

Since 2006-07 Capsticks has made 15 associates up to partner and eight partners up to equity partner in a range of practice areas, predominantly in London. 2006-07 was the only year when there was just one promotion – that of commercial lawyer Justin Alford in London. In 2007-08 there were two promotions to partner and two to equity partner, and in 2008-09 one of each.

Female lead

The next year female promotions outnumbered male ones. Birmingham employment lawyer Jacqui Atkinson, London-based litigator Annie Sorbie and property lawyer Susie Rogers all became partners, while commercial partner Sharon Lamb joined the equity.

The four, along with employment lawyer Tina Rogers, promoted in 2008-09, are the only women to be made up recently – although Capsticks otherwise does fairly well in the diversity stakes. Last year’s The Lawyer UK 200 listing showed 20 per cent of the firm’s partnership as female and Capsticks is led by managing director Alison Morley.

However, men also dominate Capsticks’ lateral hiring. The firm has hired an average of one partner per year for the past six years. The current financial year has accounted for half of the six laterals, with the focus on building up the new Leeds office.

Partners David Roberts and Andrew Davidson both joined from Hempsons, while Lisa Geary was recruited from Eversheds’ Leeds office.

Employment partner Gary Hay, appointed from Weightmans in 2006-07, was the only lateral hire into the equity in the past six years. Compared with the eight equity partners promoted internally, this is another sign that the firm favours organic growth at the senior level.

The firm has hired a number of younger lawyers laterally over the years, sometimes separately from partner laterals and sometimes at the same time. For example, the 2009-10 hire of Hammonds commercial partner Mike Clifford in Birmingham was accompanied by two more junior hires to the same team, although not from Hammonds.

Some recent recruits below partner level have since made partner, such as Jacqui Atkinson and Peter Steel in 2009, both hired the previous year.

However, the focus on internal talent is a likely reason for Capsticks’ impressive retention rates at partner level. The firm has lost only four partners to other firms in six years – three from the clinical law team and one litigator.

In 2006-07 clinical law partner Tania Richards left the London office for Mills & Reeve, where she now works as a policy adviser in the firm’s health team.

Meanwhile, litigator Tom Hayes joined Irish firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice. The following year, clinical law partner Lorna Hardman left the London office for Browne Jacobson in Nottingham.

The firm then successfully kept hold of all its partners for two years, before Iain Pickering joined Gordons  in Guildford.

Staying power

High retention levels mean Capsticks has added a net 25 partners and equity partners in six years – significant growth for a fairly small firm. Much of that growth has taken place since 2007-08, despite the downturn. In 2008 the The UK 200 showed the firm had 32 partners and another 53 qualified lawyers. By 2011, these numbers had risen to 40 and 105, generating an extra £10.3m of turnover.