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“Commercially active high-net-worth individuals demand expert legal advice,” says Julian Whately, senior partner of Westminster firm Lee & Pembertons. Whately claims that his firm provides that advice, and not just in the traditional private client sectors of, for example, trusts and personal tax planning. “What we aim to be is a one-stop shop for all our clients’ needs,” he says.
The firm’s turnover has risen by 80 per cent since a demerger three years ago, which saw the creation of Pemberton Greenish. Lee & Pembertons, which kept the name, believes its approach is unusual in one of the law’s more rarefied realms, where law firms often stop short of getting involved in high-net-worth individuals’ business matters. “We offer our clients advice on all their business needs,” says Whately. “As such, we work for entrepreneurs, or ‘new’ money, as much as we do for established, or ‘old’ money clients, such as landowners, professionals and charities.”
The nature of the legal work is complex and, indeed, veiled in the confidentiality typical of all private client practices. “We have a practical, friendly approach that has sustained strong client relationships for many years,” Whately says. “There’s a strong commitment to a private client culture, and the philosophy is to provide a personal service, which is client-led and supported by a flexible team structure.”
The firm dates back to 1775, and its well-appointed offices opposite Victoria Plaza have recently seen the recruitment of a number of new partners. They include Robert Sear from RadcliffesLe Brasseur, Ian Lane from Maples Teesdale and Rosemary Carter, adviser to the Law Society and the Government on family law policy.
The recent swathe of new recruits is part of a plan for “continued controlled growth” according to Whately. “We’ve doubled in size over the past three years and within the next five years we’re aiming to double our turnover, hopefully taking it to £10m. We’re looking at £4m for this year and I’d see us as being 20 to 25 partners strong by 2009.”
As the firm grows, Whately will keep a keen eye on the essence of Lee & Pembertons. “The partners are mindful of protecting the culture here and maintaining the firm’s common identity, even as we develop specialist fields,” he says. “I believe that over the years, we’ve developed a first-class, personal and caring approach, and it’s essential to preserve that.”
Whately argues, in conclusion: “The size and structure of the firm enables us to ensure that clients receive a personal service from experienced professionals. This is paramount to any successful partnership between clients and their professional advisers.”