South East firm DMH likes to impress as soon as a client walks through the door, and in quite a stylish manner – the firm’s Brighton and Crawley offices double as art galleries. The firm is unusual in having a dedicated gallery manager, and exhibitions showcasing the work of predominantly local artists are held regularly.

Managing partner Tim Aspinall sums up the rationale: “The work is all modern and changes every six to eight weeks. The paintings set the tone, with a very open and contemporary feel for the visitor. The feedback we’ve had has been excellent, with people saying that the galleries exemplify who we are. The aim is to counter the impression that law firms are conservative and stuffy and, by showing modern art, to show that we are forward-thinking and approachable.”

DMH was set up in 1970, originally as Donne Mileham & Haddock, when three Sussex firms amalgamated. Aspinall says: “The DMH project really began in 1997. We appointed a new management team and it was from that point that the new values that define us were developed.”

The firm sits comfortably on the premier tier in the South East, but handles national and international work as well. Recent deals include advising on the £20m financing of a retail shopping centre for the Royal Bank of Scotland and an acquisition worth £5m for Wyndham Group, one of the biggest print and publishing groups in the UK. There is ongoing work for the London Borough of Croydon – DMH has looked after the borough’s litigation for the past five years, and recently won its property contracts work.

Aspinall has serious ambitions for the firm. “We aim to be turning over at least £20m, hopefully £25m, by 2007,” he says. There will also be a push to develop its London presence. “The London office has more than doubled since 2001, but over the next three years we want to see it expand,” he adds. “We plan to double, maybe even treble its size within three years.”

But the ambition is matched by a commitment to core DMH values. “We invest a lot of time and effort in building long-term relationships with clients,” says Aspinall. “We’re not just task-orientated, but think about wider issues that affect our clients.”

Staff development is seen as crucial. “We spend a lot of time developing people internally, both technically and as team players,” explains Aspinall. He says that the firm gives fee-earners responsibility at an early stage. “It’s a very challenging and exciting place. We always attract good trainees and partners.”

DMH is a firm that is relatively young in years, and certainly young in outlook. But for all the modernity, in both the art and legal worlds, there is one thing that hasn’t changed – the dress code. “I believe that lawyers should wear suits,” says Aspinall. “And that ultimately, whoever you are in the firm, you’re expected to support the culture and values and lead by example.”

Managing partner Tim Aspinall
Turnover £15m
Total number of partners 32
Total number of solicitors 66
Main practice areas Corporate commercial, real estate, employment and litigation
Key clients Crest Nicholson Group, London Borough of Bromley, London Borough of Croydon, Royal Bank of Scotland and TM Retail Group
Number of offices Three
Locations London, Brighton and Crawley/Gatwick