“We have a reputation for taking on cases that other firms can’t handle,” boasts Harris Cartier’s chief executive Paul Norris, “and for taking them up to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Indeed, the satisfaction would be mutual as the firm, which has offices in Slough and Lincoln’s Inn, has made a profitable business out of taking on such cases on a conditional no-win, no-fee basis.
For example, it acted for Martijn Biesheuvel, aged 22, who was awarded £9.2m after a car crash. “At the time, and maybe still, it was the largest single lump payment for a tetraplegic case,” says Norris.
Harris Cartier is currently acting in several multimillion-pound cerebral palsy cases and for the brain damaged survivors in the ‘Bristol heart baby’ inquiry.
While the high-profile face of the firm is undoubtedly in the catastrophic negligence field, it is also a corporate commercial outfit. The London office undertakes most of the firm’s corporate commercial services and has just taken on two new partners.
Turnover is split almost equally between corporate/ commercial services and catastrophic negligence, explains Norris, with both areas accounting for about 40 per cent each. Often corporate work comes in through the successful litigation practice and vice-versa.
The rest of the firm’s work is made up of private client work, commercial property, conveyancing, wills, trust and probate and family work, mostly carried out in the Slough office. In commercial property it acts on behalf of several banks as well as for Bloor Homes, the UK’s second largest private developer.
“It’s a practice that has grown over the past seven to eight years,” says Norris, adding that this has provided the expertise to act on behalf of a national developer.
Harris Cartier has grown by about 10 per cent in the past year and the plan for the future involves keeping a close eye on the Legal Services Act. “We view it as an opportunity rather than a threat,” explains Norris.
While he acknowledges the challenge posed by call centre-based legal services providers, he believes clients will still seek service-driven law firms.
Only a small percentage of Harris Cartier’s work is currently international and the firm has no plans to open abroad at moment. However, it is busy building relationships with international law firms, particularly through its membership of Eurojuris, a 15-year-old network of 650 law firms across Europe. Its representative in the UK is Lawnet, a UK and Irish network of about 62 law firms, where Norris has been chairman of the board for the past four years.
Chief executive: Paul Norris
Equity partners: Seven
Fee earners: 40
Practice areas: Commercial litigation and commercial corporate
Key clients: Bank of Ireland, Bloor Homes, Papa John’s, Royal Bank of Scotland Number of offices: Two
Location: London and Slough