Steele & Co continues to head in the right direction
Forget the old adage that what matters is location, location, location. Steele & Co managing partner Philip Hyde says: "The focus isn't bricks and mortar, it's serving and winning the clients. That was a key strategic change that we embarked upon in the early 1990s. At one time we had 10 offices - now there are fewer offices, but more of us." Steele & Co has around 150 staff, half of them fee-earners. It has only 14 partners, who operate a quasi-corporate structure in three East Anglian and two London offices. Historically a product of merger and acquisition, it is seeking further consolidation in a single site in East Anglia, to be announced shortly. The firm's focus is as a business solutions provider for small and medium enterprises. "We have a web-based business support application called e-b1s.com [business 1 stop]," says Hyde. "We also offer a complete service to businesses entering e-commerce. We can design web pages, sort out hosting and the database, as well as doing all the legal things." The firm also has a strong presence in the public sector, operating a contact centre providing first line support for Norfolk's Business Link. It is currently working with the East of England Better Regulation Group and runs the legal department of Broadland District Council. Steele & Co recently acted for the Mayor of London regarding Trafalgar Square, and for Lambeth Council concerning the Imax cinema development. It has also recently won contracts with Croydon and Westminster councils for property and litigation work respectively. Turnover is approximately £6m for the year ending 13 April 2001, which is split evenly between commercial, commercial property and commercial dispute resolution. Hyde says: "We act for Wimpey Homes doing their employment work. Employment's a big area that we have a national reputation for. Norman Lamb, Oliver Brabbins and Carmel Funley are well known. We also act for Cannon UK, Bowater Zenith and Tulip." Clients, though, will be seeing less of Lamb, as he has won the seat for North Norfolk as a Liberal Democrat MP. Corporate finance joint venture company BPE Steele, launched on 1 May with Bretherton Price Elgoods, is one of several independent businesses operated by members of the firm. There is also a human resources consultancy and an insurance firm. "Our profit per capital partner, as the result of our company structure, is probably twice that of comparable firms," says Hyde. "We have a very tight equity structure." As the first ever winner of The Lawyer's Law Firm of the Year Award, Hyde is confident that the firm will continue to be innovative, progressive and profitable.