Firm profile: Withy King

Withy King” />Managing partner: Martin Powell
Turnover: £10.5m
Total number of partners: 29
Total number of fee-earners: 110
Main practice areas: Commercial; personal injury and clinical negligence; probate, wills, trusts and conveyancing
Key clients: Apetito; James Dyson; The Jockeys Association of Great Britain; Lubricants UK (BP); and Mowlem
Number of offices: Five
Locations: Bath (two), Marlborough, Swindon and Trowbridge

“We want to develop the complete brand, and by that I mean we want to compete with ‘Tesco law’, because what we’re doing is effectively Tesco law, or our own version of it,” comments Martin Powell, managing partner of Withy King solicitors.

The firm intends to rise to the challenge of the Clementi reforms, which will make obtaining legal advice as easy as “buying a tin of beans”, as the Government recently put it.

While the prospect of supermarkets, the RAC, banks and the like selling legal services is anathema to traditional law firms, Powell hopes that Withy King will be able to take advantage of the revolution.

Powell says that one of his “biggest passions” is managing the firm’s response to the problem of “the fragmented state of the legal market”. He points out that Withy King, with its 29 partners, is in the top 5 per cent of UK firms based on number of partners. “The other 95 per cent of lawyers practise in very small firms and prefer the autonomy of running their own businesses,” he says. “That’s a problem. But what we’re showing through our acquisitions is that we can bring in smaller firms who can coexist around our firm as a central hub.”

The firm has trebled in size in five years through a mixture of organic growth and investment and acquisitions. It sees itself as a full-service firm and divides its workload (according to fee income) between commercial (45 per cent), probate, trusts and residential conveyancing (20 per cent), personal injury (15 per cent) and its two retail brands, Complete (15 per cent) and Accrue (5 per cent).

Critical to the firm’s future is the expansion of its own brands, Complete and Accrue. Complete is the firm’s conveyancing division, which has a shop presence in Bath, and there are plans to open two more, one in Swindon and one in Trowbridge. “You can walk into one of our shops and buy a will over the counter already,” says Powell.

Accrue, a portfolio management and stockbroking service, also has a ground floor retail presence.

Complete is consumer-friendly and allows a client looking for a will to answer six scripted questions and, if appropriate, have the will drawn up immediately. Powell says that those clients with more complex arrangements (for example, inheritance tax planning or a foreign property) are referred back to “the mothership”.

“They can come in and have the ‘wood and chrome’ or the Georgian, pinstripe treatment,” he says. “One service is the equivalent of a Swatch watch and the other is a Rolex watch if you want another analogy.”

The firm’s plan for the future is to grow the Withy King brand “by way of acquisition and merger” and then grow the Complete brand by way of an alliance, adds Powell.