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BCL Legal, The Brief

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Barry Gross, partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, on the firm’s expansion and the state of the wider legal market.

Barry, what’s your role at Berwin Leighton Paisner?
I am a real estate partner and at the moment I am responsible for setting up our legal services delivery team (LSDT) in our newly opened Manchester office and have been with the firm since I was a trainee.

What are the main services / focus of the firm and where does it currently operate?
High aspiration and high energy – from which BLP emerges as a law firm ready to confront the challenges of competing in a contemporary legal market. The changing economic landscape of recent years has prompted exciting developments in the legal industry and shows no sign of abating. Our services are constantly evolving in order to anticipate clients’ needs and provide solutions which make their lives easier.

BLP is driving innovation across the legal sector, pioneering initiatives such as Lawyers On Demand and our Integrated Client Service Model which has our new Manchester offering right at its heart. Ranked in the top 10 most innovative firms in Europe, we are helping shape the future of legal practice as well as providing an environment for lawyers to be bold and to do things differently. Active in nine major sectors and across a range of industries, we have an established global footprint advising on work in 130 countries from our 11 international hubs.

With over 90 per cent of clients returning to BLP and 93 per cent recommending it to others, we have proven our commitment to understanding the demands of their businesses, putting them at the centre of all we do.

What’s been the highlight/stand out moment in your career so far?
Up until six months ago it was definitely becoming a partner at BLP. However, this has been surpassed by the opening of the Manchester operation. I have always wanted to have the opportunity to help drive the firm’s business forward and being at the centre of a new team delivering quality legal services in an innovative way in a constantly changing legal environment is a brilliant opportunity for me personally.

What motivates you as a lawyer?
For me the buzzword is “challenge”. From an intellectual perspective law provides constant opportunity to problem solve. On the commercial side, as an advisor you need to be able to advise within the matrix of your clients’ commercial and personal interests. Then on the business side you need to manage and develop in a constantly evolving financial, legal and technological world. When embraced fully, there is no chance to get bored and no opportunity to simply rest on your laurels.

Manchester is going to be BLP’s first UK office outside of London. Why there?
Manchester is the largest legal market outside of London and has a high calibre of talent. It is also one of Europe’s leading shared service hubs creating a highly developed industry infrastructure. It is really exciting as I was a student in Manchester and I therefore have a real affinity to the city and the welcome that we have received here has been so warm and exactly as I’d have expected.

What will the focus be in terms of services and sectors?
BLP Manchester will be supporting all other BLP offices. As has been reported in the media, following the announcement that BLP is the sole legal provider to Tesco on all matters relating to real estate in England and Wales, the Manchester team will play an important part in delivering this work. However, this is the tip of the iceberg and the team is already delivering on, realising value from developments, real estate disputes and providing burst capacity on large complex transactions. As the skillset in Manchester expands, so will the volume and diversity of the work.

How big will the team initially be?
The team has started with 21 employees and will grow with demand.

What kind of roles are you recruiting for?
We are recruiting everything from non-qualified right through to experienced lawyers. We are looking to engage with the full spectrum of the market who are looking for a refreshing approach to how legal services are delivered. We want to flex our structure around our people as much as our clients to create roles rather than forcing people into rigid structures. Historically, people who came into the profession might have become disenfranchised as they could not achieve the work-life balance they wanted. However we believe that wanting to be a lawyer shouldn’t stop you from achieving all your life’s other ambitions and we feel we are able to provide that at BLP.

What are you most excited about?
On a personal level the fact my one year old has slept through the night four out of five times this week! I am a father of four and I appreciate the value of work/life balance, and the need to ensure that there are roles for all people at all stages of life. From a professional perspective, for many years we have been on the cusp of change in the legal sector and there has been talk of change coming. It is here now. I am energised to be part of a firm that is at the forefront of delivering that change. We are now beginning to see some really exciting technologies in the legal sphere which will provide fantastic opportunities to those willing to embrace change.

The legal services market has changed hugely over the past five years with greater competition, new entrants to the market, the emergence of ABSs and consolidation. What do you think the future holds for the sector?
One thing is clear the legal services market in 10 years’ time, will look very different from the legal services market today. What the market is finally waking up to is that legal services should be about exactly that – legal services. In the same way as the retail industry has had to adapt to new ways of selling and delivering its product to its customers, successful legal service providers will need to recognise that it is not simply about the advice being delivered but rather the way in which it is delivered.

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