Reed Smith Warner Cranston’s Coventry office sees itself as a Midlands firm with international clients, rather than just a regional offshoot of a London firm.
Initially set up around the former in-house team of textiles company Courtaulds , Warner Cranston, now Reed Smith Warner Cranston, opened its Coventry office just over a decade ago and is now part of an ambitious international firm.
The practice has grown quite slowly, until recently, when a spate of new appointments sought to bring the office in line with its sister office in London in terms of growth.
Of course, the Coventry office is nowhere near as big as London’s, and it has only recently begun to work in areas such as employment, commercial property and litigation.
The partners brought in to develop these areas are relatively new to the firm: lawyers such as Mary Anderson, a former Shoosmiths & Harrison partner, Jane Hobson, a partner from DLA’s Sheffield office, Nigel Watkins, an Eversheds partner, and Chris Hill, also of Shoosmiths.
Warner Cranston recently signed its merger agreement with US firm Reed Smith, with the merger taking effect on 1 January. The merger will lead to more joint US work for all the UK offices, but Coventry is convinced that it is uniquely placed between the legal hubs of Birmingham and London to take advantage of work coming into the region.
However, the firm is adamant that it is not a Coventry practice and never has been. It aims to use its US partnership to the utmost. Despite the fact that Coventry cannot be described as an international centre of business, the firm seems resolved to market itself along these lines, and proudly boasts of its range of international clients, including companies such as Akzo Nobel, SaraLee and Courtaulds. In fact, it sees Coventry as offering strong similarities with its US sister firm. Pittsburgh, its US base, is a manufacturing centre not unlike Coventry.
It does, however, keep its feet on the ground in some respects, and is poised to take advantage of what it thinks will be a regeneration of the Coventry area. Property developers plan to spend £2.3-2.5bn on redevelopment over the next three years, which the firm argues will put the city in the same league as Birmingham, where the legal community has enjoyed a resurgence.
The firm hopes to take advantage of an abundance of commercial property work that any regeneration might bring. It is also concentrating on building intellectual property, IT and insolvency practices in the Coventry office and has already begun to gear up through a recruitment drive at partner level in this area.
This worked in the past in employment law when the firm brought in Jane Hobson from DLA, who has begun to build a solid reputation.
Such recent growth has allowed the firm to gain increased independence from London, which in the past was consistently used to back up larger projects. It now hopes to double its size in the next five years, so as to make sure that it is ready for Coventry’s resurgence. Let’s just hope that its fortunes do not follow those of the city’s football team, currently deep in the relegation quagmire.