Firm profile: Wortley Byers

One of Wortley Byers’ straplines sums up its philosophy: ‘Life isn’t always black and white. For the grey areas, you need clarity, fairness and understanding.’ The firm aims to provide a service that unravels the complexities of law, shedding light on the grey areas so that if they do not quite end up being black and white, they are at least comprehensible.

“We’re the business-minded law firm,” claims Michael Lightowler, one of two senior partners at the Brentwood firm. “We provide a personal and attentive service in plain language, utilising state-of-the-art technology.
We’re a niche firm with specialist advisers, many of whom came from City firms. This means that while we do act for clients locally, we also service a number of clients up and down the country.”

The scale of business handled in the first half of 2003 alone is enough to turn many larger firms green-eyed. Lightowler says his multidisciplinary practice was involved in deals totalling £100m. Deals included acting for Countrywide Assured Group, Champion Photochemicals, Cleanaway and Heybridge Hotel.

There was also the £58m management buyout of Everest Double Glazing.

Established in Brentwood in the 1960s, Wortley Byers is one of the leading firms in the area. Lightowler says the aim is “to build commercial relationships that will endure”. He says there has never been an “aggressive” marketing campaign, but rather “consistent growth that keeps up with the need to generate additional quality clients”. The firm has a five-year plan along the same lines, and has recently moved into larger premises, where the aim remains to provide a City service – but at “half to a third of London rates”.

Lightowler is unusual in being a notary public, one of a handful in the UK. He combines this with heading Wortley Byers’ corporate department, and is a member of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners. His notary work means he has to deal with a vast amount of international documents, disentangling overseas legalese to recognise the precise nature of a Spanish power of attorney, for example, or a French contract for the sale of land. Just as well that he speaks Spanish, French and German.

Wortley Byers
Senior partner Michael Lightowler
Turnover £3m
Number of partners 10
Total number of solicitors 26
Main practice areas Commercial property, corporate and litigation
Key clients Cleanaway, Countrywide Assured Group,Everest Double Glazing and Heritage Leisure Group
Number of offices One
Location Brentwood