Success and the smaller firm

Matt Byrne

Today’s feature unashamedly celebrates success. Don’t despair: despite the generally gloomy economic conditions and the demise of firms such as Cobbetts, there are still spots of brightness out there.

This week we profile some of the most forward-thinking firms in the UK market. Most currently reside in the second half of The Lawyer’s UK 200, so on that annual benchmarking metric, none are big firms. But small doesn’t necessarily equal niche, and neither does it preclude thinking big.

As our feature (starting on page 24) illustrates, one of the keys to success is astute thinking. Take Derby’s Flint Bishop. If ever there was an example of a firm making hay in adversity it is this £9.4m Midlands dynamo. In the two years between 2008 and 2010, revenue dropped by 30 per cent. Redundancies soon followed. Cue a series of innovative online products and a niche employment service launched on the back of the Government’s education reforms. As the firm’s managing partner Ken Dixon puts it, the “gap created by two political drivers” added up to a rebound in fortunes for Flint Bishop.

Sometimes it’s less about spotting a gap in the market and more about maintaining the relationships that still underpin law firm life, no matter how much technology replaces the personal touch. South East firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin was not only picked by internet giant Groupon to be its sole UK legal adviser based on a mixture of its reputation, expertise and flexible pricing model, the £15.8m firm has also acted for Barclays for more than 20 years.

In the feature we detail the likes of Keystone Law, which blazed a trail for the dispersed law firm model; IT boutique Kemp Little, the epitome of a sector-focused success story; and Harper Macleod, a firm headed by a chartered accountant that has reaped the rewards of investing in its people and watching the numbers.

Innovation and success have not disappeared from the UK market – you just need to know where to look.