The management team at Browne Jacobson has overseen a period of strong growth over the last few years, which culminated in the firm making it into the top 50 firms in The Lawyer UK 200 2015.
The position is one managing partner Iain Blatherwick and senior partner Derek Bambury are proud to have achieved. It followed double-digit growth during three of the last four years. Last year was particularly impressive with the firm increasing its revenue by 17 per cent, from £50.2m to £58.9m.
Blatherwick puts this down to its full service offering across the private, public, health and insurance sectors, and in particular making the most of the areas where those sectors overlap. The firm has also increased its headcount substantially over the last year from 682 to 763. The firm also saw its lawyer headcount rise from 360 to 389 on a full-time equivalent basis – but Browne Jacobson’s focus remains on recruitment.
“The people we’ve attracted want to be part of something exciting,” says Blatherwick. “If you’re more comfortable in one of the other firms then that’s fine. It’s a tough sell as we’re not as well known.”
Browne Jacobson excels when it makes the most of the opportunities that present themselves, such as when the UK firm attempted to join its first international legal network but was initially rejected.
“We applied to join another network but we were rejected,” says Bambury. “Then five firms from those networks left and joined us to create a new one.
“Our international network is now Pangea Net and we’re one of the driving forces behind that.”
Pangea was set up in 2009 and links Browne Jacobson with firms in 24 other countries. The growing amount of international referral work has been an important part of the firm’s business strategy. This is particularly the case when it comes to picking up high-profile legal claims such as those against former US stockbroker Bernie Madoff.
For Bambury picking up the Madoff case was a “game changer” which has been lucrative for the firm. However, acting on the case has also allowed the firm to increase its reputation and pick up similar work – for example on another Ponzi scheme case in Mexico.
Despite the firm making a name for itself around international litigation Blatherwick’s focus is still very much on Browne Jacobson’s UK base, following his appointment for a third three-year term earlier this year. He is also very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the firm’s offices.
“Manchester is really about health and litigation work,” says Blatherwick. “In Nottingham we’re the largest firm on the ground but in Birmingham we accept that we’re seen as second tier but are intent on changing that.”
Although the firm’s Birmingham office is not the biggest player in the city it still increased turnover by 12 per cent last year. Impressive as this seems this was one of the smallest growing of Browne Jacobson’s offices. In comparison Manchester grew by 71 per cent, London by 61 per cent, Exeter by 40 per cent and Nottingham by 11 per cent.
The Birmingham office’s profile is likely to increase due to the firm’s plans to expand, which have included refurbishing its office there.
Meanwhile Browne Jacobson moved into brand new offices in London and Blatherwick says the firm is aiming to recruit for the City – and he thinks that the variety of work and the firm’s focus on people should be appealing.
But while Blatherwick and Bambury say that they will not rule out mergers, they are looking more for opportunistic expansion. Small bolt-ons are possible, but Browne Jacobson is not currently aiming to keep its revenue growth levels up through any major acquisitions.
In the meantime, the duo and their colleagues have raised a quiet glass of champagne to making it into the top 50 for the very first time.