For many athletes, 2012 will be the culmination of years of hard work. But for Paul Woods, Senior partner of Wolferstans, the years of dedicated preparation will be more about competing in the race to harness the Legal Services Act 2007.
According to Owen, Wolferstans is representative of one of the number of provincial firms facing up to the brave new world of “Tesco law” and the alternative business structures permissible under the act from 2012. And while Woods is confident that Wolferstans is ready, he admits it has been an almighty challenge.
“We’re already three years into our planning for 2012, but the market is going to change hugely,” he predicts. “We’ve had to smarten up our act. Frankly, we’ve had no other choice.”
The firm’s modernisation is illustrated by the recent outsourcing of its IT systems, the revamping of its corporate image and the appointment of commercial executive Max Goodison. Although such measures could be considered the preserve of the country’s larger legal names, Woods is convinced that provincial firms must innovate if they are to remain viable.
“The future is a challenging one and we have to face up to this reality,” he says. “We’ve been a traditional firm but it has dawned on us that it’s change or die.”
Given Wolferstans’ Devon location, Woods admits that the local pool of commercial clients is not deep. As such, the firm tends to represent smaller businesses and public sector clients. And while there has been a drop in property instructions, Woods feels the firm’s employment and private client practices can bridge the gap.
“Income in some parts of the practice is down, but in other areas it’s up,” he says. “Overall, we feel we’ve managed our cash carefully and that we have a plan in place to carry us through.”
Managing partner: Paul Woods (above)
Number of partners: 20
Number of equity partners: Nine
Number of lawyers: 54
Number of fee-earners: 61
Number of offices: Two
Locations: Plymouth and Plymstock
Main practice areas: Wills, trusts and probate, residential conveyancing, personal injury, family, medical negligence, employment, commercial property, corporate and commercial
Clients: University of Plymouth, Southern Harbour Holdings