When he joined South West firm Stephens & Scown in 2005, chief executive Andy Steele says he identified gaps in the firm’s offering. Since then he has spent his time “filling”.
Now that he is comfortable with the firm’s position, Steele is about to lead Stephens & Scown through a period of renewed growth. “We’re looking at how we get into the marketplace, how we develop our propositions so we become the firm of choice in the South West,” says Steele. “We’re changing our strategy. Before I came in the firm had been static – my aim was to implement a ‘grow’ strategy.”
Last year the firm reported a 16 per cent increase in turnover to £16m, a figure Steele expects to exceed this year.
The firm’s three offices service its core areas of commercial property, litigation and family work, while Steele says Exeter is considered a “centre of excellence” for corporate.
“Commercial property is our largest practice,” explains Steele, adding that the firm picks up the bulk of its instructions via client referrals.
“In the South West our marketplace is generally in the small and medium enterprises world. We aim to nurture clients through their growth,” he continues. “These people are highly successful individuals who need individual advice – they need family advice and private client advice.”
While the firm looks to make strategic lateral hires, Steele says it also appreciates the merits of organic growth and has invested heavily in a training programme.
Stephens & Scown takes in 12 trainees annually, recruiting primarily from the University of Exeter and University of Bristol.
“We started the training programme two years ago,” says Steele. “We give them a huge amount of responsibility. There’s an emphasis on the training aspect, so we have a high retention rate. The selection process is robust and in reward they get good-quality work.”
The firm is also considering making what Steele calls “key acquisitions” to expand its reach into Dorset and Somerset.
Chief executive: Andy Steele
Number of partners: 35
Number of lawyers: 120
Number of staff: 240
Main practice areas: Corporate, property, family, litigation, employment, planning
Key clients: South West of England Regional Development Agency, Aggregate Industries, Imerys, Trago
Number of offices: Three
Locations: St Austell, Truro, Exeter