Take a look at Clark Holt’s website and one page in particular is shocking. There, for all the world to see, is a statement of the firm’s fees. “Why not?” says managing partner Richard Clark. “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We regard ourselves as a straight-down-the-line, transparent firm. Clients will pay if we’ve delivered a good service, our rates are highly competitive, and I don’t see why they should be a secret.”
Clark’s candour is refreshing. His firm, set up in 1995, scores highly in directories for South West corporate law firms, and Clark himself would score just as impressively in any test of a lawyer’s capacity for straight talk. When he says that Clark Holt is not driven by office politics, he says it in a way that brooks no argument.
“We’re a niche practice and everyone is involved in managing the firm. We meet once a month and everyone reports on the kind of work they’re doing. We all came from big firms and have no interest in the down sides that huge growth can bring – politics and bureaucracy. It’s cast in stone that although we’re looking to expand, we won’t grow beyond a maximum of 12 to 15 fee-earners. We need to preserve the quality of life we’ve got here, which means recognising that life isn’t a conveyor belt,” he says.
With its base in Swindon, the firm has the beauty of Wiltshire and the Cotswolds on its doorstep. Local work, though, is not the mainstay of Clark Holt’s practice. “We’re very well placed geographically,” he says, alluding to the stream of work flowing along the M4 from London. Indicative of the quality of work undertaken are two deals that took place in just one week: the firm’s advice on a £60m-plus acquisition of Torex Retail, shortly to be floated on AIM, and its role in the £30m sale of Symonds Group Holdings to a subsidiary of fully-listed Capita Group.
Clark says that his firm has come of age, and that it is time to focus on becoming primarily a corporate practice. A move into new premises in Swindon’s old town is coming soon, so too is the transition from an open-door policy to an open-plan environment.
According to Clark, Clark Holt has set itself up as a place where everyone is part of “one rowing boat, rather than a collection of individual star athletes”. It is, therefore, typical that the senior secretary is playing a huge role in the move. Similarly, the secretaries look after interviews for new secretarial staff, and any prospective lawyer is interviewed not just by Clark and his fellow senior colleagues, but by every fee-earner in the building. “If one of us doesn’t think he or she will work out, they don’t get in,” says Clark.
This might mean that only the select few will become a part of Clark Holt’s formula for “living and working well”, but as Clark says: “It’s meant to be fun. It isn’t about living to work, but working to live.”
|Total number of partners||Five|
|Total number of lawyers||Nine|
|Main practice areas||Commercial/IT, commercial property, corporate|
|Key clients||British Computer Society, Health for Industry, Fortis Bank, Isotron|
|Number of offices||One|