A West End firm with a Prague office? Whatever next?

This West End firm has 17 partners, six associates and 10 assistants who are all rather coy about turnover. Managing partner Harvey Ingram says: “I'm not looking to attract staff or clients by virtue of either the amount of turnover or the profit we make. The people that we act for are just as publicity shy.” Somewhere between £5m-£10m is as much as they will let on.
Ingram says: “A lot of clients who are successful built themselves up by virtue of being good businessmen. They didn't spend a lot of time on intellect or at business school. They look for people that they can trust. We're involved much more in the running of the business than most of the City firms.”
This year is Seddons' tenth anniversary in Prague. Situated between Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (the best end of town), it has been involved in educating the Czech Republic in matters of law and business since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Having been ruled by a communist state, the Czechs were unaccustomed to negotiating commercial deals and Seddons took the opportunity to build a reputation for directing incoming and outgoing business. A £700m joint venture between the Taiwanese government and Czech Air for a new aircraft demanded both legal expertise and commercial advice. The Prague office contributes 12 per cent of the firm's turnover.
Recommendations supply 90 per cent of Seddons' business.
The firm does everything possible to reduce overheads. Ingram says: “It is the problem with all the smaller firms. Most look at merger as the answer and that is when the problems really start. We're not looking for a merger – so often it doesn't work and becomes miserable.
“We don't have an eat-what-you-kill policy here. It is not the way to run a law firm. Careers have their ups and downs and we believe that you support people throughout.”
The latest lateral hires include Mark Parkhouse from Dynegy, where he was in-house counsel after leaving Rakisons some months before. He joined the firm in November 2001. Shipping specialist and litigator Subir Kamakar joined from Waterson Hicks in December. And new employment head Alison Grant started in July from Farmar & Shirreff, replacing Julianne Cohen who became general counsel for Nortel.
Ingram is very proud, if a little frustrated, that many of his best lawyers are headhunted by the larger firms. He puts this down to the rigorous training programme that newcomers are subjected to. “We like to put them in little grow bags and want to keep them here forever,” he says. “Unfortunately, the bigger firms get to know about them.”
Seddons acted for the owners of Viners when the company was taken over last year by Oneida for around £20m. Other clients include, Wintrust Financial, Cavendish Petroleum and Australian-based Multiplex Construction, which will build the new Wembley Stadium if plans are passed through Government.