Having recently converted to a limited-liability partnership (LLP), Teacher Stern is moving into a new phase of growth, according to managing partner Graham Shear.
Teacher Stern has its roots in commercial property and initially built up a client list packed with young entrepreneurs. Shear says that, as the firm’s clients have developed, so has the amount of work referred to Teacher Stern.
In turn, client referrals formed the foundation for developing the firm’s corporate and commercial practice, as well as the sports, media and defamation practice.
Having developed as a niche firm, Shear says Teacher Stern is gearing up to target the commercial clients it had traditionally neglected. “We hadn’t been focusing on the FTSE companies,” he says. “Ninety five per cent of our work comes from referrals. Now we’re increasing our scope to target second firm work from the FTSE100 and first and second firm work from the FTSE250.
“If you can deal with the flexibility and demands of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients then you can do the work for any corporate entity.”
As well as client referrals, Shear says the firm will pick up work from those that have lost cases against its clients. He is well aware that the firm has reputational issues as a result of its high-profile client list, but sees this as being a key point in attracting new lawyers.
In 2004 Shear represented two footballers accused of raping a 17-year-old girl. The case was unusual because the girl’s claims were leaked to the tabloids and stories were published, although no charges were ever brought.
“We do have a lot of profile in unusual areas,” he concedes. “We’re not frightened to take on a challenge and we’re not frightened of being inventive and innovative. If you have a client who has matters with legal merits, then our lawyers shouldn’t be scared to give it a go.”
Shear says this philosophy has helped the firm attract partners from rival firms, and in January Teacher Stern appointed Eversheds partner Nazia Hussain to its litigation practice.
“As a firm we like good-quality work so we can get good-quality people,” he says. “You have to admit that law isn’t always the most captivating work. So we want the scope and flexibility in our practice to make sure everybody has the opportunity to work on the more interesting cases.”
Shear says it has been a busy year for the firm: the conversion into an LLP coincided with a rebranding in which it lost the ‘Selby’ part of its name, the launch of a new website and the hire of head of business development Alex Keeling.
Managing partner: Graham Shear
Number of partners: 20
Number of fee-earners: 78
Main practice areas: Corporate and commercial, commercial property, litigation, sports, media and defamation, IP, private client
Key clients: Northern & Shell, Britannia Building Society, Fifa, Tate & Lyle, West Ham United FC
Number of offices: One