Onside Law is expanding, but the sports, fashion and media boutique has no plans to turn itself into one of the giants with which it is increasingly competing. Later this month the firm hopes to bring in a new lawyer - its seventh.
“We want to stay as a boutique offering very personal legal services,” says Oliver Hunt, one of Onside Law’s three founding partners.
There are some definite advantages to this approach. Hunt admits bluntly that fee rates is one, because Onside Law does not have the overheads of a larger firm. But as most of the firm’s lawyers have worked in the sports industry themselves, he adds that they often have a similar perception of issues and problems as their clients.
“We think of ourselves almost as quasi in-house lawyers,” Hunt explains.
Working for clients such as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Sir Michael Parkinson and Sir Nick Faldo from offices in London’s leafy Parsons Green would be a dream for many lawyers, but Hunt says it is not all Pimm’s in the Stewards Enclosure at Henley.
“As a boutique, one of the harder things is having to prove your credibility,” he admits. “In this market people are more willing to try us out because it could save them money. In more bullish markets they’re more likely to say they’re happy with their current law firm and that costs aren’t so important.”
Onside Law was founded in February 2005 by former IMG in-house lawyers Hunt and Jamie Singer and former Clifford Chance company and commercial solicitor Simon Thorp. In January this year the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer-trained Chris Walsh, who joined two years ago, became the fourth partner and went straight into the equity.
“It’s not a policy decision that we’ll apply to everyone,” says Hunt, “but Chris had come on board very early and brought some decent business with him when he joined. That’s why he was given equity.”
Despite the tough trading conditions generally, Onside Law is growing year-on-year and is winning some of the bigger-ticket deals, such as the new shirt sponsorship deal with Brit Insurance for ECB.