Stewarts is a litigation boutique, if boutique is the right word for a firm which now has revenue approaching £100m.
Stewarts is a relatively new name on London’s legal scene, having only been founded in 1990, by personal injury lawyer Douglas Stewart. Stewart himself retired early to pursue a career as an author, but co-founder John Cahill stayed on and would lead the firm for 22 years.
Stewarts is a litigation boutique, if boutique is the right word for a firm which now has revenue approaching £100m. It is notable for its structure, which sees it employ an immense number of paralegals compared to relatively few solicitors. That structure has proved successful for the partners. Average profit per equity partner first broke the £1m barrier in 2013 and was higher than that of the magic circle firms in 2016/17.
The firm’s rise to prominence has been swift. Up until the mid-2000s, Stewarts was largely recognised as a niche litigation firm specialising in brain and spinal injury: it was not until 2008 that the firm was included in The Lawyer’s UK top 200 for the first time, then boosting revenue by 54 per cent over 12 months to reach 152nd. This was the beginning of Stewarts’ extraordinary surge up the legal pecking order.
Stephen Foster launched the firm’s family law practice in 2006 after joining from Lester Aldridge, and the subsequent move of Manches’ star family partner Helen Ward to Stewarts in 2012 sent shockwaves through the family sector as the biggest move since Fiona Shackleton quit Farrer & Co in 2000 for Payne Hicks Beach. Ward was not the first to make the switch: Stewarts had been raiding Manches for partners for several years.
Exploratory merger talks with fellow litigation boutique Enyo fell through in 2017. The deal would have added £20m to Stewarts’ top line, but Cahill said: “Our preference is to continue down the path of organic growth and selected lateral hires. Our record growth over the last five years has been impressive and has not been driven by merger or acquisition.”
The firm is predominantly London-based, though a Leeds office opened in 2006. Diversification has continued, with fresh practice areas such as financial crime and media being launched.
Stewarts managing partners