Brief encounter: BRACHERS

Brachers knows where to trim to make the firm grow stronger

Following a year of disruption within the farming industry, Maidstone-based Brachers chose to withdraw from the South East England legal panel of the National Farmers' Union (The Lawyer, 17 September). The decision was made for strategic reasons and the firm hopes to continue to act for individual farmers.
A matter of days later, the National Health Service Litigation Authority announced further cuts to its panel (The Lawyer, 24 September). Brachers retained its place, despite the number of firms being cut from 90 to 15 over the last three years.
Brachers' managing partner is Geoffrey Dearing who, when not pursuing his interest in motorsports (he finished fifth recently in the 10,000km Marrakech Rally) is extolling the virtues of teamwork. “The one difficulty that strong teams give you is where you have a multidisciplinary client. But as we've got more of that kind of work, we've got into the habit of putting groups of people from different teams together to service the client,” he says.
Founded in 1895 by HJ Bracher, most of the firm's growth has been organic. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of assistant solicitors were hired from London firms, which transformed the firm into a more commercial practice. The staff now numbers 225, including 23 partners, which is a rise of 73 per cent in five years. Over the same period, income has increased by 63 per cent. Dearing hopes for that rate to continue.”I think we've got a niche in our particular marketplace in the South East,” he says.

“I'd like to see the London office grow. Having it helps your credibility with clients; it gives you access to London markets and contacts”
Geoffrey Dearing, Brachers

Turnover for 1999-2000 was £9.2m; 2000-2001 was only marginally more at £9.8m. Dearing says: “In that year we hived out Ashcourt Asset Management [the firm's investment management operation]. Ashcourt has also taken on the asset management business of Wilsons in Salisbury and Blake Lapthorn in Southampton. Our legal business increased by about 18 per cent, but we've taken out the Ashcourt figures.”
Brachers' London office has two resident partners focusing on employment and commercial litigation. “I'd like to see the London office grow,” says Dearing. “Having it helps your credibility with clients; it gives you access to London markets and contacts.” Lower overheads mean more bulk work is done in Maidstone.
The firm's latest recruits are Matt Newman from DJ Freeman and Irfan Balch, who joined three months ago from Stevens Drake in Crawley. Homegrown Tim Craton has recently been made a partner and Nick Rennie joined from Williamson & Barnes two years ago and became a partner in May. An exchange programme is underway with the Lille bar.
Eurotunnel is a major client, especially with recent events. “There are very large transactions there with the BAA [British Airports Authority] litigation,” says Dearing. “Lovells was on the other side. We had a team of five, they had a team of eight. It all eventually settled out of court. The immigration issue is a big case.” Brachers partner Chris Holme is leading the case.
Other clients include Charlton Athletic FC, Aon, Medicare Audits, American Express, KPMG and Travis Perkins.