Leeds firm Zermansky & Partners welcomed in the new year with its eponymous founder Victor Zermansky celebrating 50 years on the roll of solicitors.
Newly-qualified in 1955, Zermansky set up his firm having completed two years military service in the Far East in the army legal aid department. The firm is remarkable in the fact that longevity seems to be its watchword. Many of Zermansky’s original colleagues are still with him, and across the board the average tenure for staff is probably twice that of most firms.
“In 50 years, we’ve only ever made one person redundant,” says Norman Taylor, managing partner and head of the firm’s family department. “You have to be here a long time before you’re not regarded as new,” he added. Taylor is proud of the loyalty engendered by the firm, which, he says, is consciously “partner-orientated”. Six of the current partners completed their training contracts at the firm, three rose from assistant ranks, and only one joined from outside.
“We’re unusual in not following the pyramid structure of many firms,” says Taylor. “But we believe this gives clients a greater access to partner-level service.”
Taylor is also proud of what he describes as “the melting pot” at the firm. “One of the key features about this practice is its diversity,” he says, something reflected by the various languages spoken by staff – Hindi, Punjabi, Polish, Afrikaans, French, Italian and German. “The rich mix of people from all sorts of cultures means that we can reach out to people from different backgrounds.”
The firm has a blend of publicly funded and private work, with the biggest practice area being family law.
“We’ve always been a strong supporter of legal aid, as it was, and publicly funded work,” says Taylor. “But we’ve also worked to build up a private client base.”
This is an approach Zermansky & Partners is keen to maintain, particularly given the way in which publicly funded legal work – which accounts for a third of its income – has come in for such flak from the present Government. “The lack of certainty about publicly funded legal work makes it very hard to plan for the future,” says Taylor. “There are more and more restrictions, ever-increasing bureaucracy, and the concept of public funds paying for legal services is under severe attack. We have to try and factor in things that we can’t predict.”
Nevertheless, the firm has what Taylor describes as a “carefully structured” modus operandi, with plans for “controlled expansion”. There is a management committee of three partners, supported by administrative, finance and IT managers as well as an in-house costs draughtsman.
For the future, Taylor sees Zermansky & Partners capitalising on the strengths that have made it one of the most successful practices in Yorkshire. “We’re consolidating and building on what we’ve got, with the aim of managing expansion carefully,” he says. “Our immense diversity remains a core factor. We’ll keep giving the best advice that we can to anybody who walks through the door, irrespective of how the work is funded.”
|Zermansky & Partners|
|Senior partner||Norman Taylor|
|Total number of partners||10|
|Total number of solicitors||18|
|Main practice areas||Family, property and commercial, litigation and insolvency, private client|
|Key clients||Leeds Co-operative Society, Park Newton Properties, Tradex|
|Number of offices||One|