Office head Brian Mackenow has left the firm in order to remain in Sunderland. He will retain some of the support staff previously employed by Crutes and set up his own practice, named Brian Mackenow & Co.
Crutes' senior partner Tim Wallis said the decision to close the office came as part of an overall restructuring of the firm. “We now have a commercially-focused management team, largely recruited from industry. The board is starting to make an impression,” he said. He added that shutting the office was largely a question of efficiency.
Two years ago, the firm merged its Sunderland and Newcastle litigation practices, leaving one partner, Mackenow, serving Sunderland. Wallis argued that the closure of the Sunderland office was the next logical step. Sunderland's close proximity to Newcastle meant that maintaining two offices was not cost-effective.
Crutes will operate out of just three bases in the region – Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Carlisle. Clients and staff were consulted throughout the decision-making process, and some were given the option of remaining with Crutes or joining Mackenow's new practice. One legal executive and a paralegal will join Brian Mackenow & Co.
“Mackenow's been with the firm for 25 years, so when he said he wanted to stay we decided that the proffessional thing to do was to let the clients decide who they wanted to go to”
Tim Wallis, Crutes
Wallis said: “The arrangement with Brian Mackenow is an amicable one. He's been with the firm for 25 years, so when he said that he wanted to stay we decided that the professional and seemly thing to do was to let the clients decide who they wanted to go to.”
The closure of the Sunderland office is something of a watershed for the firm, as it was the location of the office of founding partner Richard Rutter Crute in 1907. Managing partner Stephen Crute said: “This is a significant step for Crutes, but we must look to the future of the firm.”
Dispensing with the Sunderland office is just one part of Crutes' commercial strategy. The firm is branching out from its traditional litigation roots to boost other practice areas. Wallis said that insurance, commercial property and employment are the principal areas singled out for growth potential.
“The world has changed for us, and having a broader management board has made the firm a different place. Now, if we're not commercially focused in each and every area of the firm, we face difficulties.”