Philip Smith, the managing partner of Cheshire firm SAS Lawyers, is not one to hide his firm’s light under a bushel. “We’re very assertive on PR,” he says.
Indeed, if recent events are any indication, it seems that the eight-partner, Stockport-based firm is on the upward march. Smith says: “Ten years ago, we thought to ourselves, ‘We have to go somewhere or we’ll be eclipsed’.” According to Smith, it was the hire of Jonathan Whittaker of the now-defunct firm Hansons that initiated the firm’s push forward. “He’s the sort of personality that drove us into being more outgoing and less shy,” says Smith.
Last September, the firm moved into new premises in the centre of Stockport, taking 14,000sq ft of space on Greek Street. To avoid any rumblings about the £1.5m cost, at the same time, SAS refurbished its Cheshire office at a cost of around £50,000.
Turnover for the 2003-04 financial year stands at £2.9m. However, SAS has set itself a goal of reaching £10m within five years. To achieve this dramatic growth, the firm is looking for merger partners and is currently in talks with another firm, based outside Stockport.
Smith will not reveal which firm it is, except to say that if successful, the merger will immediately double the firm’s size. SAS also plans to bulk up through a series of significant bolt-ons.
SAS is divided into six divisions – commercial, employment, family, litigation, probate and property. Family and employment contribute most to turnover – together they account for just under half of the firm’s total billings. The firm’s family practice advises wealthy families in affluent Cheshire, but the firm also takes cases on a legal aid basis.
Cheshire is among the most affluent regions of the UK and is home to a range of companies, not to mention celebrity footballers. While the property and probate teams act largely for local clients, the firm’s commercial and employment teams draw on a wider regional and national clientele. Among its clients are the food manufacturer Geest, Tops Tiles and music retailer Music Zone.
Regional firms have long suffered from the image that they do little or no pro bono work, but SAS lawyers offer their services to the Stockport Citizens Advice Bureau and the Legal Advice Centre.
When asked to describe the firm, Smith does not hesitate. “We’re slightly in your face,” he admits. “There aren’t too many people up here who don’t know about us.” Smith would clearly like there to be more.
|Managing partner||Philip Smith|
|Total number of partners||Eight|
|Main practice areas||Commercial, employment, family, litigation, probate and property|
|Key clients||Tops Tiles, Music Zone, Geest|
|Number of offices||Two|
|Locations||Bramhall and Stockport|