Firm profile: Rowe Cohen

Earlier in the month, Mohamed Al Fayed was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords in a final attempt to sue the police for wrongful arrest.

Managing partner:

Graham Small
Turnover: £9.5m
Total number of partners: 19
Total number of staff: 200
Main practice areas: Commercial, personal injury (claimant and defendant) and property
Key clients: Federation of Small Businesses, National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Police Superintendents’ Association of England & Wales and the Royal Bank of Scotland
Number of offices: Two
Location: London and Manchester

Earlier in the month, Mohamed Al Fayed was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords in a final attempt to sue the police for wrongful arrest. In a reported £7m legal battle, the Harrods boss has suffered a series of defeats in his attempt to claim £1,000 damages from the Metropolitan Police over his arrest in 1998 over complaints that Harrods staff had broken into a safe deposit box belonging to business rival Tiny Rowland. Manchester firm Rowe Cohen is advising the Met officers through its ongoing work for the Police Superintendents’ Association. “So far that case has gone to the Court of Appeal three times trying to get to the House of Lords and it just failed again last week,” says managing partner Graham Small. “These are the kind of clients that produce consistently good work.”

Rowe Cohen began life as a personal injury (PI) firm founded by name partners Simon Cohen and Ivor Rowe in Hythe, Manchester, in 1990. It has since grown to 19 partners and 200 staff, with offices in Manchester’s Quay Street and Ludgate in the City.

Graham Small took over as full-time managing partner last September. “It was the first proper management change, because so far the practice had grown somewhat organically,” he says. The firm is split into three main departments – PI (claimant and defendant), property and commercial. “We’ve grown the core bits of the business but moved into the commercial field more aggressively,” continues Small. “There’s always been a desire and willingness to grow the commercial side of the practice, but historically it had grown more through inertia rather than positive marketing and bringing in good-quality commercial lawyers.” More recently the firm has taken on lawyers recruiting from, among others, Cobbetts, DLA and Hammonds.

“One of the features of our business has been our reputation in the world of commercial legal expenses,” Small says. “Where an organisation or an affinity group takes out a legal expense policy for its members, and when that member needs to call on the benefit of that policy for anything, he or she goes to the law firm. We’re a market leader.” As well as the Police Superintendents’ Association, Rowe Cohen acts for organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses. As far as the police work goes, the firm acts for any senior officer below chief constable in the UK and represented the police during the Marchioness inquiry, the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and, more recently, acted for Ali Dizaei, the chief superintendent who was cleared following a multimillion-pound investigation into allegations of misconduct.

“Last year we recognised where we wanted to be,” Small says. “We operate two lines of business which have very different dynamics. There’s the volume business, such as PI and the residential property side, where we’ve invested heavily in IT and case management, and the key is driving down the cost without affecting the quality of the service. On the commercial side, we’ve invested heavily in people.” Five years ago the firm did not have a commercial department “in the proper sense of the word”, says Small. “Now we have true specialists in all major lines of commercial work and our offering is to the SME [small and medium-sized enterprise] sector.”

Jon Robins