The Lawyer UK 200 Rank36

Shoosmiths has an East Midlands heritage dating back to Victorian times. It was originally a Northampton law firm but has grown into a national one with 12 offices across the UK. Though the firm had long dabbled in commercial work, its reputation for debt recovery, personal injury and residential conveyancing took longer than it would have liked to shed. These days, however, its image is a good deal slicker, though the firm still handles a fair share of commoditised work

Shoosmiths has an East Midlands heritage dating back to Victorian times. It was originally a Northampton law firm but has grown into a national one with 12 offices across the UK. Though the firm had long dabbled in commercial work, its reputation for debt recovery, personal injury and residential conveyancing took longer than it would have liked to shed. These days, however, its image is a good deal slicker, though the firm still handles a fair share of commoditised work and is one of the few firms of its size still to maintain a family law practice.

As part of a strategy rethink to shift the firm away from bulk personal injury work, the balance of power has gradually moved away from Shoosmiths’ Northampton home towards Milton Keynes and other offices. The firm insists it does not have a headquarters, preferring to consider itself a UK law firm with larger bases outside London.

Shoosmiths is a rarity in that it is a national law firm that appears not to have major ambitions in London. Indeed, in 1994 it went so far as to close its London office to concentrate solely on business in the provinces. It has since returned to the City but has never shown much inclination to be a major player there – though in 2016 it did pledge to expand its London team to a headcount of around 60, admitting that some work does require a presence.

Shoosmiths has not been afraid to shift its geographic focus as and when required: offices in Rugby (merged into Nottingham in 1999) and Banbury (split away to become Spratt Endicott in 2002) fell by the wayside long ago. Of the ones that exist today, Northampton, Nottingham, Reading and Fareham were all established by the mid-1990s, with Basingstoke, Milton Keynes and Birmingham offices joining them before the recession hit. The firm’s most recent office openings came in Leeds and Belfast in 2016.

Turnover doubled between 2002 and 2008 but the financial crisis and recession was tough on Shoosmiths, and several rounds of redundancies led to negative publicity, though in fairness other firms were making equally drastic cuts. The financials only really started to recover in 2014, though a 2012 merger with Edinburgh law firm Archibald Campbell & Harley kept the firm moving forward during this down period.

Claire Rowe – who began as a trainee at Shoosmiths in 1984 and has spent her whole career at the firm – took over as chief executive in 2009. She had previously headed up the firm’s nationwide litigation practice and then wider commercial group. The firm usually features relatively strongly in the female partner stakes.

In 2013 the firm invested particularly heavily in Birmingham, relocating about 180 staff to a 40,000sq ft office at Two Colmore Square having previously been based at 125 Colmore Row, where it had been since 2003.Continued investment in agile work spaces has seen Manchester, Reading and Leeds become fully agile with a view to all of its 12 offices working flexibly.

The firm tends to have a low revenue per lawyer compared to similar sized firms, as well as lower profits per equity partner. Historically, Shoosmiths had among the most tightly held equity in the The Lawyer UK 200 but it conducted a major overhaul in 2017, with the firm moving closer to a full-equity system in a bid to increase its attractiveness to laterals, encourage retention and create more opportunities for its senior talent.