Lupton Fawcett offers a small-firm service with big-firm expertise
The mananging partner of Leeds firm Lupton Fawcett, Kevin Emsley, exudes a contagious enthusiasm. "[Leeds] is a great place to work and a great place to live," he says. "The opportunities in our marketplace - I can't see a limitation to them. There are more businesses coming into Leeds, more deals, more opportunities and more deal-makers. We're very lucky here." The firm is surreptitiously gaining clients from the six larger firms that dominate the Leeds marketplace: Pinsent Curtis Biddle, Addleshaw Booth & Co, Eversheds, Walker Morris, DLA and Hammond Suddards Edge. Emsley claims that these firms are changing their focus, with the result that they are weakening their grasp on the Leeds middle market. "We don't lose many clients and we win an awful lot from the big six. I'm not criticising them at all, but they're increasingly set up for a different type of client. In some ways, the bigger firms have commoditised the legal service. You've got very expert lawyers who work in a narrow field. Most of our clients aren't national companies and don't have the in-house expertise, and so need more proactive, commercially-orientated advice," says Emsley. Lupton Fawcett is a full-service firm with four legal divisions: company commercial, litigation, private client (known internally as personal legal services) and personal injury (PI). There are just 23 partners with another 230 staff. PI is the largest area, contributing about 32 per cent of turnover, and corporate is the largest growth area, up by 58 per cent. "The change in defendant insurance litigation, where the insurance companies have been reducing panels and instructing national organisations, means that we've not sought to maintain our position in that marketplace; we've focused on the Yorkshire businessman," says Emsley. Some of the clients that Lupton Fawcett has gained recently are Teamtalk Media Group, since its demerger from IMS Group last April; ICM Computer Group; Real Affinity, which it floated on AIM with a market capitalisation of £4m; and last year it advised Leger Travel, which was sold to Airtours for £23m. Corporate partner Gary Salt, who joined from Addleshaws 12 months ago, boasts about the number of big-firm names that have been recruited - Bob Harrap and John Sykes, both from DLA, to name just two. Salt can pitch to clients about the small-firm service and the big-firm expertise. He jokes about how the partners will actually do the work in this practice. Emsley says: "We have a collegiate culture here, with only a few partners owning the firm; so while we're always looking for potential mergers or acquisitions, we wouldn't be looking at a full-blown merger. We don't want to lose what we've established."