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Needham & James is on the hunt for extra revenue. Nothing unusual there, except that in the Stratford-upon-Avon headquartered firm’s case the search is likely to end in a merger.
Senior partner John Hughes says that 12 months ago Needham embarked on a strategy aimed at reversing the downward trend of turnover and bulking up in anticipation of the challenges raised by the Legal Services Act.
“Like most firms we’re reviewing our position,” he admits. “Will a firm with a £7.3m turnover be able to keep its key clients and remain competitive as the market changes? In practice the question is, do we look for smaller firms to take over or similar sized firms to merge with?”
Hughes says he and his partners believe firms will need at least £15m in turnover to give clients what they want: plenty of support in the full range of services and a commensurate breadth of experience.
“We feel we need to be able to demonstrate we’ve got depth,” he adds.
Although last year total turnover at Needham took a dip - from £8.9m in 2007-08 to £7.3m - Hughes says it is approximately back to where it was in the early 1990s when it was partly taken over by the firm that was to become DLA Piper.
“Our original plan was to hit a turnover of around £10m by 2012,” explains Hughes. “That’s still our aim but we’re looking for merger partners and lateral hires to make it above £15m. That said, we’re not rushing into anything - there’s no desperation at all.”
Needham’s focus is broadly three-pronged: commercial, banking and finance and private client. These groups include several national and international businesses such as E.on, National Grid, NFU, West Bromwich Bank and Unity Trust Bank.
Property, which includes acting for energy companies on work related to power stations and laying cables, accounts for around 30 per cent of revenue. Private client, which includes residential property and agriculture, chips in another 20 per cent, with similar amounts from banking and social housing.
Senior partner: John Hughes Turnover: £7.3m Number of partners: 25 Number of equity partners: Eight Number of lawyers: 48 Number of fee-earners: 63 Number of offices: Four Locations: Birmingham, Moreton-on-Marsh, Shipston-on-Stour, Stratford-upon-Avon Main practice areas: Commercial, banking and finance, private client Main clients: E.on, Islamic Bank of Britain, NFU, National Grid, Unity Trust Bank