No one could accuse Steeles of a lack of ambition: the Norwich-based firm was one of the first law firms to have a PC network connecting its offices in the 1980s; it was the first law firm to take over the running of an entire legal department for a local authority, when it took over legal services for Broadland District Council nine years ago; and it was also the first winner of The Lawyer Law Firm of the Year Award in 1992.
Now, with the June recruitment of Peter Scott, the former managing partner of Eversheds in London, the firm is
looking to make headlines once again.
The constituent firms that originally formed Steeles stretch back to the 19th century, but the actual Steeles name only dates back 30 years to Diss in Norfolk.
There is still a two-partner, 26-fee-earner branch office in Diss, where much of the firm’s private client and overspill property work is carried out.
The headquarters, however, are up the road in Norwich, where the administrative functions of the firm are based, as well as the majority of its 13 partners.
Norwich is home to eight partners and is the largest office in terms of turnover, accounting for around 70 per cent of the firm’s £8m. ‘Office’ is perhaps misleading, as it is actually three separate buildings around a business park campus, where the firm has recently doubled its space.
It is London, though, where the firm is pinning much of its future growth. The office in the capital now has three partners and more than 40 staff.
The office was opened in 1997 on the back of the firm’s significant public sector client base in London as well as growing demand from its commercial clients. Initially based south of the Thames in Kennington, in May 2003 the office moved to the City in two adjacent buildings in Gray’s Inn.
The London office was given a boost in April 2003 when it recruited a media team from Mayfair firm Edmond Bowen & Co, led by partner Stephen Fisher. It was joined in June by Trevor Marsh from Hamlins.
The employment team in the capital, led by ex-Russell Jones & Walker assistant Fiona Cumming, has also grown considerably and now comprises seven lawyers. Employment law is a target sector for the firm.
“Commercial and employment work is one of the key areas of growth for us, along with the public sector and London,” says Philip Hyde, the firm’s managing partner.
It is the London element of that where Scott will make a difference. He had been advising the firm on its development strategy in the capital as part of his role as a management consultant with a firm of accountants. Hyde says it became apparent that it would be more beneficial to both parties if Scott actually joined the firm to lead the development himself. “He could obviously only do so much from outside… We both realised he could do what he wanted to do more effectively from within,” he says.
He is unabashedly frank about the decision to bring Scott on board. “He was already working very closely with us on our plans for acquisitions or mergers in London, so it made sense for him to join us. He’ll be helping us look for obvious merger opportunities and lateral hires. We’re definitely looking to grow.”
With Scott, Steeles has already bagged one major name. It may not be too long before it bags another.
Senior partner: Nigel Lubbock
Managing partner: Philip Hyde
Turnover: £8m
Number of equity partners: Three
Total number of partners: 13
Total number of lawyers (excluding trainees, paralegals and legal executives): 50
Number of offices: Three
Locations: Diss, London and Norwich (HQ)
Main practice areas: Public sector, general commercial, employment and litigation
Key clients: Bowater Zenith, Campbell Foods, Canon UK, Croydon Council, Lambeth Council, Tulip Danepak, Westminster Council and Wimpey Homes