Next year's president of the Law Society will be Anthony Collins. The licensing specialist founded Anthony Collins Solicitors 27 years ago, where he is now senior partner. Then it was just Collins himself and a secretary, whereas today there are 160 people working for the Birmingham-based firm, 17 of whom are partners, with a further two being promoted on 1 May.
One of those is Helen Tucker, currently an associate in the housing litigation team. Tucker ran the first case on human rights and housing which reached the Court of Appeal, the Castle Vale Community Housing Association Trust case, which went to trial at the end of last year.
The second is Deborah Shaw, who will be working part-time for the firm, balancing her work with childcare. Anthony Collins prides itself on encouraging this type of flexitime as part of its promotion of family values. The firm is based upon a Christian ethos and as such claims to have an "ethical heart".
It is this ethos that led to the firm's appointment as adviser to Christian relief agency Tearfund, which posted an income of £36m last year. The firm also acts for a range of Christian charities such as Spring Harvest and the Shaftesbury Society.
These values do not necessarily make the firm commercially naive. Three years ago it took on a practice director and a team to look after that side of the business. This prudent move seems to have paid off: in just two years it has seen staff growth of 60 per cent, and similar figures apply to its turnover, which will be near the £6m mark at the end of this financial year.
The management team is headed by practice director Deborah Evans. She says: "Our commercial side has really taken off. We have a niche market strategy. In other words, we tend to go for those areas that bigger firms are less interested in, such as owner-managed businesses."
Anthony Collins is split 40-40-20 between housing, commercial and private client work. It is also developing a practice to act for the registered care homes voluntary sector.
In clinical negligence, the firm has recently settled a cerebral palsy case worth £2.4m. In addition, it was the firm behind the recent Leslie North six-figure settlement. This was a claim for post-traumatic stress, said to be the result of intolerable stress at work for an employee of Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds TSB). The case was completed on a no-win, no-fee basis. The firm also advised the Focus Housing Association on the refinancing of all of its housing stock, remortgaging the property portfolio for £215m. Other clients include Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries, Dunlop, City Centre Restaurants and Showcase Cinemas.
If partner retention is anything to go by, there seems to be satisfaction within the firm. Over the last few years only one partner, Paola Gorrarra, has departed. She left at the end of last year to set up her own consultancy, albeit without tempting any clients away.
Ironically, the growth spurt of the last few years is something that the firm needs to control. Evans says: "We don't want to get too big because we're not sure our niche markets could support us, so 25 partners is probably our maximum. But this is a flexible estimation – we'll see how the markets go."