Firm profile: Matthew Arnold & Baldwin

Joint managing partners:

Iain Donaldson and Steven Mills
Turnover: £11.5m
Total number of partners: 22
Total number of fee-earners: 90
Main practice areas: Commercial litigation, banking, commercial property, corporate and commercial, residential property, tax, trusts and probate
Key clients: Barclays, Europcar, Nissan, Hilton International, AIB, Baker Tilly, Computacenter
Number of offices: Two
Location: Watford and London

“It’s nice to find a building with some character that has been well restored and is aesthetically attractive,” says Iain Donaldson, joint managing partner of Matthew Arnold & Baldwin (MAB), on the firm’s new London office. Earlier this month, the Watford-based practice opened its first presence in London on Southampton Row, formerly the Patent Office.

“Geographically, the firm has always been a slight oddity,” says Donaldson. “If you look at the map, we seem to be further out of London than we actually are. I can be at King’s Cross in 20 minutes flat, and we have the benefits of the A1, the M1, the M25, Stansted, Luton and Heathrow.”

However, a survey of the firm’s corporate client base revealed that if MAB wanted to grow, it needed a presence in London. “[Our clients] wanted a London firm,” Donaldson says. “For inward investment work, you really need a London postcode to sell the firm to the clients. If we are not there, then there’s a credibility issue and I cannot have that.”

MAB started as a small high street firm more than 100 years ago, but Donaldson claims that it has “changed beyond recognition”, having ditched its childcare and personal injury department in the last few years.

Its principal workload breaks down as: commercial litigation (25 per cent); commercial property and estate development (21 per cent); corporate and commercial (14 per cent); residential property (12 per cent); and tax, trusts and probate (9 per cent).

Among its recent corporate deals, the firm acted for US online digital content provider SuperStock on its £2m takeover of Ingram Publishing. It also advised the Horse of the Year Show on negotiations with Sky. The insolvency team recently acted for the administrators of Sportsplex (Canary Wharf), owners of Reebok London gym, which hit financial difficulties at the end of last year and has since entered liquidation.

MAB is planning to staff its London office with 10 lawyers, although the firm is also considering growing through merger.

“It is not uncommon for the firm to grow by 30 per cent in one year,” claims Donaldson. “The view we have at the moment is, ‘We came, we saw, and we decided to stick’. I don’t want a bad merger, not just for the sake of growth.”

Iain Donaldson and Steven Mills
Joint managing partners
Matthew Arnold & Baldwin