Wragge & Co has made an astounding pledge to become the number one full service law firm to the UK's real estate industry by 2006
The firm has hired Eversheds' high-profile Birmingham senior partner Adrian Bland to help drive the plan with recent Herbert Smith lateral Gerald Bland.
Eversheds had attempted to retain Adrian Bland, offering him a London position as chairman of property, before he opted to join Wragges in Birmingham.
Adrian Bland will take on a new 'chief executive' style role for Wragges' national property practice to complement Gerald Bland's position as national chairman. Wragges has also hired Lovells property litigator Anne Waltham, making Adrian Bland the third real estate lateral in six months. He brings an extensive contact base. He is currently a senior member of the team promoting Birmingham's bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008.
Even with the string of laterals and more in the pipeline, Wragges has set itself up for a fall by openly stating its target for the next three years. Senior partner elect Quentin Poole admitted that achieving the goal would be "a stretch". He said: "It will be demanding. It's visionary but we think it is realistic. We're up for it."
Poole said that Wragges' London-Birmingham axis would give it an edge over both the national and City firms. "The national firms are strong on property, but their structure makes it difficult to attack national markets because they're busy fighting over local markets," he said. "Niche firms are struggling a bit because you need all the back-up of tax and corporate and in the magic circle, a number of firms are questioning their investment in property."
Market sources are sceptical. "They'll have a lot of competition from Eversheds and they shouldn't underestimate the likes of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)," said one City property lawyer. "It's an odd ambition. To seek to be number one for property is to be in the position that BLP is now and BLP has nowhere to go," the source added.