Wragges managing partner Quentin Poole tries to play down the importance of the firm putting down roots in London. But press him a little closer and he reveals: “We can say that 85 per cent of our work has nothing to do with the Midlands. Markets are London-driven.”
Eversheds came to the same conclusion seven years ago, the same year Wragges launched in the capital. As Eversheds chief David Gray says: “When we integrated in 2000, we said that if we wanted to become a serious national and international firm, we had to be headquartered in London.”
But Wragges is extremely reluctant to shed its Brummie identity, especially since its lawyers there are shouldering around 80 per cent of the workload.
Wragges has always been one of the most efficient firms at funnelling back work to an office with a lower cost base. The internal prediction is that Birmingham will grow by around 40 per cent over the next five years. London, while smaller, is targeting 90 per cent growth in the same period. That will require a lot more management time, both on the strategic and operational levels. And the more emphasis is placed on London, the harder it is to maintain the business model that it currently operates.
Poole’s grand vision has always been to target FTSE100 companies in order to become their secondary or specialist adviser.”The market in the Midlands is tiny. It’s miniscule compared both with the City and internationally,” he admits.
And here comes the difficulty. Up until now Poole has avoided the tricky balancing act that Eversheds and Pinsent Masons had to do when they focused on the City: how do you target London and keep regional staff happy at the same time?”We don’t see our heart and soul in geography, we see our heart and soul in our client base,” Poole declares.
It’s a snappy catchphrase. Poole would obviously like to recruit committed internationalists as happy to source work in Sumatra as they would in Solihull. But Wragges has always capitalised on having a local, more cosy feel to its culture. This may have to change, and it won’t be easy; there are a lot of people who still like to walk to work.