Despite its status on the legal zeitgeist as a limited-liability partnership (LLP), at Fisher Scoggins tradition counts for a lot. “We’re a law firm that practises law rather than management,” says senior member Mark Scoggins, who along with Alan Fisher set up Fisher Scoggins in June 2002 after leaving Elborne Mitchell. “The danger is that, in a larger firm, we’d be managers rather than lawyers. We didn’t want to get drawn away from the law and into business.”
Scoggins says there are plenty of upsides to being an LLP. “It’s tax-neutral in the sense that the members are still taxed as individuals, rather than as a body corporate, but the chief benefit is the ease with which you can bring in new members,” he explains. “I’ve seen far too many wrangles over partnership deeds over the past 20 years and an LLP is a much cleaner way for a small firm to operate.”
The firm handles a variety of contentious matters from an office on the Embankment that overlooks the Thames. “We acted in the Paddington rail disaster for Thames Trains, as well as for Balfour Beatty in Hatfield and for all the shooting associations following the Dunblane killings,” says Scoggins. While he tends to act directly for corporates, his colleague Alan Fisher’s instructions are more likely to come from insurers.
Both appear regularly as advocates. Scoggins led the successful Old Bailey defence of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens and his predecessor Lord Condon in a five-week trial ending in June 2003 on all 10 charges brought against them by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), arising out of roof falls suffered by patrolling police officers.
The LLP structure clearly suits Scoggins, who says he began his legal life “in a small firm where decisions were easily and sensibly taken”. Life at Fisher Scoggins, where there is a “relatively informal” management ethos and an absence of the kind of marketing-speak that dominates many modern-day law firms, LLP or otherwise, is of this ilk. His aim when setting up Fisher Scoggins (as an LLP from the off) was “to achieve control over what we do”.
“We believe in the Pareto principle,” says Scoggins. “This says that 80 per cent of your work will come from 20 per cent of your clients. We get a lot of repeat business and the rest comes from referrals or introductions.”
There are no plans for expansion, but instead a simple and refreshing commitment to the business of the law. As Scoggins says: “We don’t want to expand dramatically or offer ourselves as a bolt-on, and we try to engage younger lawyers with the same ethos. We’re rather like a barristers’ chambers, where a collective of able people come together, work and have a common sense of where they want to go. The way we work enables us to get involved in a case – we get to live them rather than just manage them.”
Scoggins concedes that the firm is always open to approaches from “good people who know what they’re doing”, and whose philosophy matches his. But he has a simple plan for Fisher Scoggins’ future, which is likely to stand the firm in good stead: “Do the cases, do them well, keep the client, and get another one.”
|Executive||Senior member Mark Scoggins|
|Total number of members||Four|
|Total number of solicitors||Five|
|Main practice areas||Chemicals, civil engineering, construction, police and emergency services, transport and water|
|Key clients||Balfour Beatty, Metropolitan Police and Severn Trent Water|
|Number of offices||One|
|Locations||Temple Avenue, London|