Sometimes it can be painful to adapt, but the Southampton firm founded in 1964 by Eric Robinson is looking to change. The firm celebrated its fortieth anniversary over the summer and Robinson was there, but the firm he built on a platform of family work and serving local businesses has ambitions to spread its name beyond its current six-office geographical reach.
The office network has itself been part of the problem. From Hythe in the West to Hedge End in the East, each office has, to an extent, operated as a separate firm, the fiefdom of the leading partner of the day. “From next year we’re planning to operate more as one firm,” says personal injury partner Allison Hampshire, one of the two female partners at the firm.
“We’re not looking to change the management, but the ethos,” Hampshire says. “We want to introduce a better firm structure, better staff incentives and increase the level of referrals between the six offices.”
The approach until now has helped Eric Robinson Solicitors reach a £7m turnover. It also has one of the largest family teams in the South. But the feeling among the partners is that its approach is increasingly old fashioned. Two years ago that led to a rebranding, which saw the ‘& Co’ part of the name ditched. There have also been personnel changes, including the departure of former managing partner Andrew Baker, who parted company with the firm to set up on his own earlier in the year.
The emphasis now is on the future. The firm’s equity structure is, as Hampshire puts it, “very complicated”, with six equity (or ‘first schedule’) partners and three ‘second schedule’ partners. The latter draw a salary and are then paid a percentage of profit based on the number of years’ service up to a maximum level. There has also never been a female full equity partner. “It needs looking at,” says Hampshire.
It has already revamped its technology, with all six offices on Windows 2000, the same Axxia time recording system and linked by an in-house developed intranet. The firm is also about to trial BigHand digital dictation with a view to rolling it out from March next year. There may be some kicking and a little screaming, but there’s no holding back the future.