Bradford and Leeds-based firm Schofield Sweeney likes to think of itself as a business that punches well above its weight. This is partly because of the high proportion of lawyers on its books with previous experience at some of the UK’s largest firms.
“I think all of our partners have had experience at one of the large or national firms,” says senior partner Chris Schofield.
Schofield himself founded the firm after a stint at the former Dibb Lupton Broomhead (now DLA Piper), followed by a spell in-house at electronics company Filtronic.
While working in-house, Schofield found that when using larger firms, he tended to get junior lawyers, big teams and big fees. Consequently, he spotted a gap in the market for a smaller, but still high-quality, firm focused on advising clients in the local market.
“I thought that a reasonably well-resourced firm using modern communications technology could take advantage of this opportunity,” Schofield says.
More than 20 years later, Schofield Sweeney (Martin Sweeney joined his former Dibbs colleague in 1998) has grown to a 17-partner firm, which turned over £5.3m in the 2008-09 financial year.
“We’re up from around £4.7m last year so we’ve seen some growth,” says Schofield. “We had a very strong start to the year – the first seven months were our strongest ever – although it slowed after that.”
Corporate, the focus of six partners, is the engine of the firm, as it has been since day one. But the housing association and charities practice, headed by former Walker Morris partner Andy Hurst, has a national reputation while Andrew Finfer, formerly of Addleshaw Goddard, recently made headlines by devising a campaign aimed at helping UK ports avoid insolvency.
“We’re still very much a West Yorkshire firm,” says Schofield. “But as we have around 90 people now and have a technology platform for 150, we have some room to grow.”
Senior partner: Chris Schofield
Number of partners: 17
Number of equity partners: Four
Number of lawyers: 38 (including partners)
Number of fee-earners: 47
Number of offices: Two
Locations: Bradford, Leeds
Main practice areas: Commercial, corporate finance, commercial property, dispute resolution, employment, PFI/projects, competition, trusts and wills.
Clients: Accent Homes, Games Workshop, Humber Docks and Mersey Dock Rating Groups, Network Rail, Sanderson, Spice