Firm profile: Keeble Hawson

At the end of last year, Yorkshire firm Keeble Hawson beat off stiff competition from 20 other bigger players in the national legal market to bag a particularly lucrative instruction as the leading legal adviser for Standard Life’s new pension product. The firm is now the insurer’s key adviser concerning the commercial property investments for its new flagship pension product, the Standard Life Sipp (self-invested personal pension).

Managing and senior partner:

Tony Gregory
Turnover: £10m
Total number of partners: 27
Total number of staff: 180 (including 77 lawyers)
Main practice areas: Commercial conveyancing, commercial litigation, company and commercial, insolvency, personal injury (including clinical negligence) and private client
Key clients: MICE Group, Samsung UK, Standard Life, Transport and General Workers’ Union, University of Sheffield, Volvo and Yorkshire Fund Managers
Number of offices: Two
Location: Leeds and Sheffield

At the end of last year, Yorkshire firm Keeble Hawson beat off stiff competition from 20 other bigger players in the national legal market to bag a particularly lucrative instruction as the leading legal adviser for Standard Life’s new pension product. The firm is now the insurer’s key adviser concerning the commercial property investments for its new flagship pension product, the Standard Life Sipp (self-invested personal pension).

Standard Life invited 20 firms to tender in what Keeble Hawson, somewhat immodestly, describes in its press release as “one of the most detailed and relentless competitive selection processes ever undertaken”.

“It’s a great achievement for the firm,” says managing partner Tony Gregory, “and proves that when you commit time and energy to matching client requirements at every stage of a competitive tender process, anything is possible.”

Keeble Hawson was founded in 1788 in Sheffield. It has grown recently through a series of mergers from local practice to national firm. In 1996 the firm merged with fellow Sheffield practice Rodgers & Howe. Two years later it made its entry into the Leeds market by acquiring the six-partner insolvency firm RC Moorhouse & Co. Four years later the expanding practice took over niche corporate finance practice James Kendall, which specialised in advising venture capitalists.

“We moved into Leeds and our policy was very much to begin from an existing base, rather than starting from scratch,” says Gregory. “It’s proved successful because our turnover’s increased four-fold in that period and we probably have three times the number of people in Leeds than at the time of the merger.”

That the firm has moved beyond its regional focus is evidenced, Gregory argues, by new clients such as Standard Life, Samsung and the DVD retailer Silverscreen. The firm advises Samsung on commercial litigation and Silverscreen, which has been called the fastest-growing retailer in the UK, on property matters.

“No doubt The Lawyer will have heard many times firms of our size saying that they compete on equal terms with the big firms in London for all sorts of reasons, not just on price, but on issues like partner retention,” says Gregory. “But what we’re finding – and it’s demonstrated in our client list – is that we can compete with those other firms as long as we find out what the client or prospective client wants.”

Gregory believes that the firm has grown by 15 per cent over the last 12 months and anticipates a similar level of expansion over the next year.

“Lawyers instinctively think they know what’s best for their client and decide what the client wants accordingly,” Gregory says. “But if you listen and tailor what you offer, then that becomes a more attractive proposition.”

Jon Robins
Tony Gregory
Managing & senior partner
Keeble Hawson