Small firm, but perfectly formed for success

Not all lawyers want to be part of a big firm or part of a niche practice. The recruitment of Addleshaw Booth's corporate partner Glenda Turner in February by five-partner general practice Turner Parkinson is a case in point.

Turner Parkinson is one firm that has refused to listen to the fashionable message that you should either merge for growth or become a specialist boutique.

The Manchester-based practice was conceived 18 months ago by Richard Parkinson, Phil Turner and Malcolm Hunnisett, all of whom were partners with leading local firms.

The new practice raised eyebrows when it first began with its unconventional approach, typified by its company car – a 2CV. “It was well known as a bit of joke among all the other Manchester lawyers,” says Parkinson, “but we have received several write-ups in the press because of it.”

Parkinson had only just been made a partner at leading firm Cobbetts when he handed in his resignation to set up his own firm. “They were horrified. They must have thought I was mad. We had no clients, no office space, three partners and a secretary. But it was something I wanted to do, and once I'd made partner, no one could accuse me of running away from a failure,” he says.

Since then, the firm, which primarily targets owner-managed businesses in the North West, has enjoyed phenomenal success. It has outgrown its present offices, taken on a further three high-profile partners, drawn owner-managed business clients from as far away as Carlisle, and is carrying out PFI work in London.

The key to Turner Parkinson's success, claim its lawyers, is staying small without sacrificing crucial areas of practice.

The firm deals in all aspects of commercial work, intellectual property, employment law, construction and even divorce and family work, which larger practices are dropping.

The firm only deals with “heavyweight” divorces where the division of assets is approaching £1m. It has found that clients are so impressed with the service they receive, that they often refer other more mainstream business-oriented work to the firm after the divorce has settled.

Turner Parkinson says its unique selling point is that it offers clients the same standard of partner they would see at an established firm, but at a guaranteed flat-rate of £100 per hour.

The firm is lean and heavily reliant on IT, and because there are so few associates clients can be sure that the partner they meet is the same person who does the work. Clients are further reassured that none of their hard-earned cash is propping up an inefficient system of bureaucracy. Dare we say this radical philosophy is something akin to 'back to basics'?

Turner claims he does not need an army of consultants to formulate a mission statement and strategy, but relies instead on intuition and common sense. He says that in his first month he billed more hours than he ever did at Cobbetts.

Latest recruit, high-flying corporate partner Glenda Turner, who turned her back on the newly-merged Addleshaw Booth & Co reinforces this point. Used to billing in the region of £400,000 a year, she feared there would not be enough work at Turner Parkinson. However in just two months she is already billing more than 70 hours per week.