Firm profile: Whitehead Monckton

Last November, Kent firm Whitehead Monckton underwent a complete rebranding in a bid to raise its profile, not only in Kent but also across the South East. Its aim was to signal that the firm was no longer just a high street practice.

“Currently, 75 per cent of the business comes from within Kent, with 25 per cent outside of the county,” says chief executive Hilary Mundella. But that looks set to change.

The history of the firm can be traced back more than three centuries, and it still boasts a sixth-generation Monckton as one of the partners. However, its current look and structure is largely the result of a five-year restructuring programme and the implementation of a business development plan last year.

The firm’s current form took shape in 1968, when Whitehead Thomas & Urmston merged with Monckton Son & Collis. Key clients for the firm include Bank of Scotland, which the firm advises on corporate recovery matters, Horley, Kentstone Properties and Lloyds TSB. It has also been doing work for the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The firm specialises in commercial work (which boasts the largest team), personal injury, family and investment management. It is also well known for its tax work. “We’ve a very solid and quite extensive reputation for tax planning and estate planning,” claims Mundella.

The employment team has also begun to feature more heavily recently. “Within commercial, employment has seen a significant increase. There’s an increasing demand for employment lawyers,” adds Mundella.

Mundella took on the role of chief executive in January 2003. Her name may be familiar to readers of The Lawyer as the former chief executive of Hardwicke Building, as well as having done a stint at Berwin Leighton Paisner. However, her background is not in the legal market. Prior to her time at Hardwicke, she was at BUPA as general manager.

Since joining Whitehead Monckton, Mundella has seen the firm implement its first business development plan and investigate new ways of building the business. She now runs the development of the firm in conjunction with the partnership board. “We’ve invested quite heavily in terms of branding and in bringing in new fee-earners,” she says.

Indeed, Whitehead Monckton has benefited from the stream of lawyers looking for a lifestyle outside London, having brought in fee-earners from Finers Stephens Innocent, Reed Smith Warner Cranston, SJ Berwin and even Australian firm Clayton Utz. The firm’s reputation, it seems, really does stretch beyond Kent.

As well as a rebrand and a new chief executive, 2003 also saw Whitehead Monckton splash out on new offices in Tenterden. Although the firm has remained in the same high street building, the offices have been completely refurbished in a bid to maximise space. The IT system has also been upgraded to keep pace with the growth of the firm.

Whitehead Monckton
Chief executive Hilary Mundella
Number of equity partners Eight
Total number of partners 11
Total number of lawyers 29
Main practice areas Commercial, tax and estate planning, family, investment management and personal injury
Key clients Bank of Scotland, Horley, Kentstone Properties and Lloyds TSB
Number of offices Two
Location Maidstone and Tenterden