Guildford-based firm Stevens & Bolton has recently gained partners from Allen & Overy (A&O) and Middleton Potts (The Lawyer, 9 September). Corporate finance lawyer Jonathan Porteous from A&O worked most recently at the Amsterdam office. Howard Lupton joins the commercial property team having specialised in retail and industrial development work at Middleton Potts.
Partner Richard Baxter, head of corporate commercial and member of the management board at Stevens & Bolton, says that the firm has never had any trouble attracting and keeping the lawyers it wants. Peter Snowden joined the tax and trusts department as a partner from his role as a solicitor for the wealth and estate planning services of Union Bancaire Privee in August 2001. He manages a range of offshore trust clients.
“We're a very successful firm that just happens to be smaller than other successful firms,” says Baxter. He is keen to project an image of the firm as a partnership set on growth, financial success and service, not a regional firm making excuses for itself.
Turnover for the year April 2001-2 was £9.1m, with growth projected at just less than 10 per cent for the year ahead. Since 1995, turnover has grown by 300 per cent and the number of personnel has grown by 160 per cent. All this has been achieved organically – apart from the occasional bolt-on. “The partnership is not wedded to the idea of growth through merger,” says Baxter. “Growth strategies must not be at the expense of culture.”
The current plan to continue growing while maintaining financial success, is highlighted by the firm's desire to enter The Lawyer 100.
The firm's best strategic decision in recent years has been to consolidate its four offices into one. The final phase of this programme took place last year when the private client office in Farnham was moved, without loss, to Guildford. Baxter compares the firm to Wragge & Co and Burges Salmon. “They have consciously not gone for multi-office approaches and are winning UK work from that platform. There are obviously arguments in favour of a London office, particularly in corporate finance. That's in the medium term.”
Unusually for a firm of its size, Stevens & Bolton has two professional support lawyers. Both internal appointments came within the last three years. Baxter believes that they play a vital role in providing clients with up-to-date information. Baxter says: “Inevitably, very large firms with massive resources can do that more easily, but it's our job too. We've no airs and graces about being lawyers first and providers of a service second. We recognise that we're simply a service business. Clients like that.”
Average profits per equity partner stand at £245,000, ranging from £135,000 up to £445,000. The firm is adamant that it should maintain all of its practice areas, regardless of the degree of profitability. “Partners have to be grown up about having a profit-share structure that incentivises everybody,” says Baxter. “We focus on being able to offer it all: enough financial reward; a non-City environment; interesting work and career opportunities.”
Clients include the BOC Group, Hays, IAF Group, Morse and WS Atkins.