Salisbury-based Wilsons has been in operation since the early 18th century, although the firm’s major breakthrough occurred in the mid-1970s when it launched a premium private client business. It now boasts a turnover of £13m and has doubled in size over the past six years.
Managing partner Jonathan Stephens believes the firm’s ambitious outlook is paramount to its continued success. “Wilsons is fairly unique in that we’ve always gone for the top end of the market in order to provide a high-end service to our clients” he says.
As well as servicing private clients, Wilsons specialises in family law, contentious trust probate, charity law and litigation. These areas account for around 75 per cent of the firm’s activities, while the remaining 25 per cent is saved for commercial property and employment.
As Stephens puts it: “We work our contact base well and cater for a lot of wealthy entrepreneurs.”
The firm acts for people in 45 jurisdictions and has begun to expand globally. “We have people visit Hong Kong twice a year and 10 per cent of our revenue now stems from our international ventures” says Stephens.
He also cites the firm’s Salisbury location as a key factor behind its international expansion. ” In the morning it’s quicker to get to Jersey or Guernsey than London,” he says. “We’ve spoken about moving to the capital and it would be the next natural step, but I think our location is one of our unique selling points.”
Wilsons is renowned for its rapidly evolving charities practice, which is ranked third best in the UK. With three partners and nine lawyers, it claims to have developed the largest team of its nature outside London since its creation five years ago.
While Stephens is clearly proud of the achievements of the charities practice, he acknowledges the drawbacks of compiling such a high-quality team, saying: “Our head of charities Alison McKenna has recently been named president of the new Charity Tribunal. When you have such an excellent team it’s inevitable that they’re going to be snapped up.”
As the firm continues to “drive ruthlessly upmarket” it refuses to rule out the possibility of future mergers.
“We do get approached reasonably frequently,” admits Stephens. “I think it’s important to keep the firm attractive. But turnover’s been growing 15 per cent year-on-year on organic growth alone, so we’re doing pretty well.”
Managing partner: Jonathan Stephens
Number of partners: 29
Number of lawyers: 70
Number of fee-earners: 84
Main practice areas:Premium private client, family, litigation, contentious trust probate, charity, rural businesses, heritage property, company commercial
Key clients: Cancer Research UK, RSPCA, Scope, RNLI
Number of offices: One