For decades the firm, which can trace its roots back more than 100 years, has been known as a private client and family-focused outfit, with a more recent division specialising in trade unions.
But following a six-year push to modernise the practice, Watkins & Gunn has now launched a business law group aimed at capitalising on contacts among the local banking and accountancy circles.
“We’ve just joined [the Law Society’s] Lawyers For Your Business group, which offers a free consultation,” says managing partner Clive Thomas. “The idea is to offer additional services so we can genuinely say we offer the full range.”
Thomas claims that much of what the firm will now offer under the umbrella of ‘business services’ is already handled throughout its disparate groups, but that “we just didn’t wrap it up in the way we will now”.
Thomas relocated at the start of the year from the firm’s Pontypool head office to Newport to lead the new group. “That office and the local environment is more suited to business law,” he says. “Also, to use a rugby analogy, it’s easier to captain a team as a fullback than a hooker.”
The firm has not been unaffected by the recession. It closed its Newbridge office last year and was forced to make a handful of redundancies, but Thomas is confident that it has weathered the downturn well.
“Our turnover was around 5 per cent up on the year before and we’re hopeful of a similar performance this year,” he says. “We’re obviously mindful of the recession, but to us it’s all about continuous improvement.”
That improvement was recognised last month when the firm won the Lexcel Award for Practice Management at the Law Society Excellence Awards, the only Welsh firm to win an award. According to the judges, Watkins & Gunn “has a remarkable story of achievement”.
The firm will be looking to continue that as it branches out.
Managing partner: Clive Thomas
Number of partners: Four
Number of equity partners: Three
Number of lawyers: 11
Number of fee-earners: 13
Number of offices: Two
Locations: Newport, Pontypool
Main practice areas: Accident claims, childcare, conveyancing, crime, divorce, employment, wills and probate
Clients: Private clients, National Accident Helpline, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union