Darbys

DarbysAmong the ancient buildings and dreaming spires of Oxford, there is a quiet revolution going on.

At least that is what you’ll hear if you speak to Simon McCrum, managing partner at 61-lawyer full-service firm Darbys.

Not afraid to shake the tree, McCrum was a surprise appointment when he joined the firm in September 2007 after 12 years at Pannone.

Darbys has longstanding relationships with ­traditional clients such as Blenheim Palace and ­several Oxford colleges, but partners took the radical step to name McCrum, a self-confessed “innovator” with marketing success like “no one else in the ­business”, after they heard his plans to revolutionise the ­business of marketing law services.

But exactly what those plans are remain a closely guarded secret.

“I had a vision about how we could seize ­opportunities that the legal market will offer in light of the Legal Services Act,” says a cagey McCrum, who spent 2008 putting his plans in place and describes the revamped Darbys as an “E-Type Jaguar with a turbo on the back”.

While at Pannone, the confident McCrum created the law firm referral scheme Connect2Law, which now has more than 1,000 law firms as members. It was as a franchisee of that scheme – which is now owned by Pannone – that Darbys first made contact with McCrum, who says he is trying to replicate that ­success with his new venture, with the full backing of Darbys’ partners.

“There are a lot of revolutions going on in business at the moment,” explains McCrum. “Over the past 12 months we have both improved Darbys as a successful traditional law firm and launched something much more radical.

We appear to be up despite the recession and have five lawyers joining this month – we’ll make a big push on our plan from 2009 onwards.”

McCrum has promised to spill the beans later this year, but for now he remains tight-lipped. “It’s all a gamble,” he says mischievously. “But so far, so good.”

We are all agog.

Firm: Darbys
Managing partner: Simon McCrum
Turnover: £8m
Number of partners: 25
Number of equity partners: Nine
Number of lawyers: 61
Number of fee-earners: 87
Number of offices: One
Location: Oxford
Main practice areas: Private client, corporate, commercial property, employment, litigation, wills and trusts, clinical ­negligence, crime
Clients: Blenheim Palace, British Horse Society, Euromedic, Fabulous Bakin’ Boys