Simpson Millar

<a class=Simpson Millar” class=”inline_image inline_image_left” src=”/pictures/web/images/15978_7_simpson.gif” />Traditionally a union law firm, Simpson Millar plans to build on its client base to grow into a UK national firm.

“We came to a conclusion last year that we weren’t going to progress,” admits managing partner Peter Watson. “We were growing year-on-year but the growth wasn’t large enough and we felt it was time to take a proactive approach to look around and find teams and firms to merge with.”

Watson, who takes an active interest in the larger themes of the legal market, says the bulk of potential merger targets have been in Leeds and the North East, although he is casting the net further by ­speaking to firms in Manchester and London.

Plans for a UK-wide network aside, Simpson ­Millar is keen to keep its existing clients in the North East happy. These include the various unions that made up the backbone of the firm when Watson joined 13 years ago. Back then, the Communication Workers Union provided 90 per cent of its revenue.

“We’re not looking to have an office in every city in the country – having eight costs enough – but being able to have more of a national coverage has obvious benefits,” says Watson. “We’re not going to move away from our trade unions. They’re part of our core ­values, but it’s us being realistic and looking at the future of the practice.”

The firm’s workbook these days looks more like 60 per cent personal injury, 10 per cent clinical ­negligence and 10 per cent industrial disease, with conveyancing and employment accounting for the rest. But Watson plans to change that.

“Commercial and litigation are areas we’d like to build and we’re not going to grow them ­organically,” he says. “We’re talking to people who will give us that base. There’ll be a lot of consolidation over the next five years. We’re fortunate our core client area isn’t affected by the financial market as much as other firms. This gives us a springboard to grow.”

Managing partner: Peter Watson
Turnover: £10m
Number of partners: 16
Number of equity partners: Nine
Number of lawyers: 27
Number of fee-earners: 46
Number of offices: Eight
Location: Leeds, Manchester, London, Wimbledon, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Gateshead
Main practice areas: Personal injury, clinical negligence, conveyancing, financial services, industrial disease, employment
Clients: Communication ­Workers Union, British Airline Pilots Association, Federation of Petroleum Suppliers