It has been a year of dramatic change at niche property firm Maples Teesdale.

Managing partner

: Mark Bryan
Turnover: £4m
Total number of partners: Nine
Total number of lawyers: 26
Main practice areas: Commercial property
Key clients: City & West End Property Group, Gort Securities, Resolution Life and Royal & SunAlliance
Number of offices: One
Location: Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London

It has been a year of dramatic change at niche property firm Maples Teesdale. In 2004, staff numbers at the 200-year-old firm grew by 20 per cent, while turnover increased by a whopping 39 per cent to hit the £4m mark. And according to partner Roger Thornton, the firm is expecting revenues to reach £4.5m in 2005. To cope with the pace of growth, the firm last year appointed its first ever chief executive, former CMS Cameron McKenna accountant Roger McNaught, and instructed Baker Tilly as auditors.

While Maples Teesdale has long been recognised for its property expertise, the departure in 2002 of the firm’s three-partner private client team to Lee & Pembertons confirmed its position as a niche property outfit. With fellow property specialists Maxwell Batley and Forsters both retaining non-property practices such as private client and charities, Maples Teesdale has announced its strategy of becoming the premier niche real estate firm in the market.

The renewed focus on commercial property has made the firm an option for City lawyers looking for a firm where property takes centre stage. Indeed, of the firm’s nine partners, five are ex-Norton Rose. And, says Thornton, working in a firm where partners are able to fit in a single conference room for the monthly meeting is also appealing.

The firm has 26 fee-earners, including the nine partners (five are equity), 11 solicitors and three trainees. The ratio of partners to lawyers is unusually low at 1:1.2, but Thornton says this is exactly what clients want. “Our clients on high-value deals want partner input,” he says. “That’s a real strength for us.” The strategy has brought the firm a raft of key instructions. Last year, it won a new client in Targetfollow Group after its acquisition of the ground lease of Portman Towers in W1. The firm also advised longstanding client City & West End on the joint development of 40,000sq ft of office and 12,000sq ft of retail space behind the main Old Burlington, Clifford Street and Savile Row facades.

Within the broad church of real estate, the firm specialises in three key areas: investment, development and landlord and tenant management. Managing partner Mark Bryan and partner Declan Power both specialise in developer work for developer clients. There is also a property litigation team, led by former Norton Rose partner David Stevens and including three other lawyers. The non-contentious construction team is led by Paul Matcham and includes a senior assistant and a trainee. Company commercial has a dedicated partner, Dennis Marshall, who joined 18 months ago from Osborne Clarke.

According to Thornton, in the next three years the firm aims to post a turnover of around £7m and to add between three and four partners. The management is currently in negotiations to acquire an extra floor in the Lincoln’s Inn premises with a view to uniting staff under one roof.

Although never short of merger offers, Maples Teesdale has resolved to remain independent, for the time being at least. Thornton says: “We’re a young partnership; many of us have come from larger firms and we want to build a successful business ourselves. It’s an exciting time to be here.”