The relatively short distances between towns such as Exeter and Truro can take on epic proportions, especial…
Total number of partners: 33
Total number of lawyers: 52
Main practice area: Commercial property, company and commercial, family
Key clients: Aggregate Industries, Hanson Industries, Imerys and Pendennis Shipyard
Number of offices: Five
Location: Exeter, Liskeard, Plymouth, St Austell and Truro
Anyone who has holidayed in the South West will testify that there is something strangely, and attractively, remote about Devon and Cornwall.
The relatively short distances between towns such as Exeter and Truro can take on epic proportions, especially when one is stuck in a four-mile tailback on the A30. But as managing partner of one of the region’s largest firms, Stephens & Scown, Ian Pawley denies he feels in any way “detatched” from his partners. “Cornwall was actually the Mother Goose of the practice,” he says, “with St Austell the first office to open in the 1930s. Exeter only came along in the early 1960s, followed by Truro in 1985 and Plymouth six or seven years ago. But with today’s technology, it’s very easy to keep in touch. I certainly don’t need to spend too much time stuck on the road.”
Pawley is likely to be spending much of the first part of the New Year in the Exeter head office. The firm is currently in the process of moving into larger and more modern premises. “We need to move partly because the Exeter office has been expanding so much that we’re having difficulty fitting everyone in,” says Pawley. “Also, our current offices are charming but fairly old. It’s not the most efficient place to work.”
The move to a new home is also partly designed to attract new and young recruits to the firm. As part of the reorganisation, Stephens & Scown will close its office in Liskeard, with the retirement of one partner. The move, then, is a catalyst to energise a practice that, although sizeable, remains based in the poorest county in the country. Cornwall attracts development funding from Europe, and firms such as Stephens & Scown need to attract quality lawyers to win the related work. Strategically, that has meant a shift away from publicly funded work, although this still represents a small proportion of the firm’s turnover.
More significant as a practice is the firm’s growing corporate group. Recent highlights include the sale of the business-to-business postal company Speed Mail International to Deutsche Post, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on the other side; the sale of Jack’s Patch plant nursery to WyeVale Garden Centres, represented by Addleshaw Goddard; and the establishment of local investment fund Finance Cornwall.
It is an impressive list that Pawley believes will be consolidated by the office move. “We’ve got a good basis of clients and excellent staff,” he says. “And we need to show both that we’re up to speed now and for the future.”