In an age where every law firm with more than five partners claims to have a full-service national capability, it is refreshing to find a firm that makes no such claim – a firm which nevertheless has a client list to make much larger practices green with envy.
Glovers, with its nine partners and
Mayfair base, may seem like an old-fashioned kind of London law firm, but appearances are deceptive. It is actually strictly commercial, having ditched its private client practice seven years ago, and is now focused on employment, commercial disputes, commercial property, construction and property finance.
“If a client wants advice outside these core areas we decline, because we don’t pretend to be something we’re not,” says managing partner Tony Bourne.
The strategy seems to work. The firm is the sole adviser to American Express Group in the UK on employment law, having won the client through a beauty parade three years ago. It also advises construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine on non-PFI matters and the Ask restaurant group on everything from property finance to health and safety (there are plans to replace banking partner Neil Blows, who left in May to become chief executive officer of Ask).
“It’s a cliché, but we try to provide a big-firm service across a very specific range of practice areas – and nothing more,” says Bourne.
The firm has evolved to its current size and shape over the past decade. It acquired the construction practice of partner David Miles 10 years ago, shortly before ditching private client. The second construction partner Philip Eyre is also a quantity surveyor, and it is a team that Bourne hopes to build on.
The largest teams in terms of turnover are dispute resolution and commercial property, accounting for approximately 45 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
The stellar client list is one reason why the firm is regularly approached about merger opportunities, says Bourne. In the past they have always been quickly dismissed. “Our lawyers are here because they like working in a firm of this size and shape,” he explains.
But with no sign of competition in the legal market diminishing, he admits that growth through acquisition or merger cannot be ruled out indefinitely.
“Organic growth has never really thrilled me, so we’re working with headhunters to see who’s out there. In the past we’ve always waited for people to approach us; from now on we’re being more proactive,” he says.
Future growth is aimed at developing existing practice areas as well as IT and intellectual property. “It’s difficult,” says Bourne. “The partners are very close and like the firm as it is. We have to weigh the benefits of growth via merger or acquisition against reshaping it and risking making our current lawyers – and potentially clients – unhappy.”
Last year’s £4m turnover was a 13 per cent increase on last year’s and is a figure that the firm would settle for next year. “I’d expect us to be operating in the same areas, but with more strength in depth. We’re not planning anything too radical. Our lawyers wouldn’t like it and nor would our clients. It’s a cautious strategy, but in this market it’s best not to be lairy,” says Bourne.
Senior and managing partner: Tony Bourne
Turnover: £4m
Number of equity partners: Five
Total number of partners: Nine
Total number of solicitors (excluding trainees, paralegals and legal executives): 25
Main practice areas: Commercial disputes (including banking, mediation, professional negligence and retail property), commercial property, construction, employment and property finance
Main clients: American Express, Anglo-Irish Bank Corp, Balfour Beatty, Investec Bank (UK), Kleinwort Benson Investment Management, London International Exhibition Centre, M Winkworth & Co (Holdings), Sir Robert McAlpine Group, Standard Chartered Bank and University College London
Number of offices: One
Location: London