A new, improved Merseyside

Looking like he has just jumped out of the cockpit of a gleaming Spitfire, Jim Davies is an unconventional legal luminary in Liverpool.

Davies set up Davies Wallis Foyster in the city in the late seventies – at a time when decent legal chaps simply did not do that sort of thing, eventually becoming the firm's chief executive.

Although he looks every inch the pin-striped English lawyer, the exuberant Davies has gone against the grain in Liverpool, which despite its penchant for left wing politics, can be the most conservative of cities.

Davies Wallis Foyster is now the fourth largest firm in the North West, with offices in Liverpool and Manchester and 56 fee earners in an insurance department that did not even exist 10 years ago.

It completed a £830m deal last year – one of the regions biggest – and a turnover of £13.5m, up from £4.2m 10 years ago.

The firm is also an ideal merger partner.

In fact, Davies Wallis Foyster may do better to have a parlour rather than a boardroom, such have been the number of firms coming-a- courting.

“We've had approaches from big firms,” says Davies, “I'm not ruling it [a merger] out, at the right time.”

Being in this position appears to give Davies immense satisfaction, if not the faintest touch of smugness.

“I think some of the bigger firms have lost the plot,” says Davies, adding that many are “too arrogant” in assuming that because they are big, they can offer better service.

Firms like Davies Wallis Foyster may be out of the legal headlines, but with Michael Hudson from Slaughter and May, Ross Wellman from Penningtons and Freshfields' Stephen Daniels all joining the firm in recent years, they are proving that they can offer a challenging legal day that does not always drag on until 11pm.

Indeed confidence is soaring in the Merseyside legal community, which only two years ago was in uproar when the Legal 500 directory remarked on the shabbiness of local law firms' offices.

Long-serving Liverpool solicitors absorbed into the Berrymans Lace Mawer merger are enjoying a 40 per cent increase in instructions on a year ago, while they are now developing company commercial, professional indemnity and construction as new practice areas.

And confidence is also high in Manchester as insolvency departments whistle happily while others do not work and the general economy grows on the back of the revamped airport.

“There was a time seven or eight years ago that an international deal in the North West was a rare thing”, says Garretts' top Manchester partner, Tim Hamilton.

Now it is rarer to be involved in one that does not have a foreign flavour.

With such a burgeoning legal economy, it may just be the ideal time for another young Jim Davies to throw conservative caution to the wind and launch his own firm.