David, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for The Brief. Firstly, can you give us a quick rundown of your own career to date?
I studied at the University of Sheffield where I achieved at 2.1 LLB. My training contract was with Irwin Mitchell, Sheffield, and I then joined Langleys. My first role was as an assistant solicitor, I became a partner in 1991 and then managing partner and head of Insurance Law in 2009.
What are the key services offered by Langleys?
The firm is split into four separate divisions:-
• Commercial Law which provides a full range of services to the business client
• Insurance Law which acts for insurers, Lloyds’ syndicates, local authorities, loss adjusters and self-insureds on a national basis
• Private Law which provides a range of legal services for the individual client particularly in relation to agricultural work, family law and tax and estate planning; and
• Residential conveyancing which is a volume transactional business acting for individuals, referrers and financial institutions on a national basis.
What were your main objectives when you became a managing partner in 2009?
We rolled out “Project Sunrise” in 2010. The project involved a number of different elements all of which were designed to ensure that the business was in better financial shape to meet the challenges ahead. A number of initiatives were successfully undertaken which included:-
• Devising a competency based framework for all partners and our people. The framework has a number of core competencies with examples of behaviour which one would expect of a “role model” for each category. The framework was prepared following a firm wide consultation with assistance from management consultants, Addleshaw Goddard. The framework ensures that everyone within the firm knows what is expected of him or her thus ensuring transparency in progression and succession planning.
• Developing a performance review management process against which all partners and our people are assessed.
• The restructuring of the partnership to ensure that remuneration is based upon merit and individual contribution towards the firm’s objectives.
• The implementation of a strategic business plan to set out clear objectives for the firm over a six year period and beyond.
• The incorporation of the firm into an LLP. This involved removing goodwill from the balance sheet. We also revised the method of remuneration of equity partners by implementing a points based system which is reviewed annually and is merit based.
• Engaging all our people in the firm`s vision and core values across the business.
What has been the impact in the firm’s performance of these initiatives?
• The turnover of the firm has increased by 28% from year ending March 2010 to March 2014. The turnover for the last financial year ending March 2014 was £20.16m.
• During the same period, our net profit has increased by 20% and PEP has more than doubled (£273,127 at March 2014)
• We have reduced the number of equity partners from 22 to 13 during the same period although we have increased our people by 26%
Can you tell us about the firm’s future growth strategy and what the aims/ambitions are for the next couple of years?
Our financial objective is to become a top 100 law firm within the next two years. We are on track to meet that objective. The firm is also committed to “profitable growth” rather than to achieve an increase in the top line. We will consider merger options provided that a merger would add value to the business. We are not interested in merging simply to increase turnover. And we are committed to transferring our volume residential conveyancing division into a separate entity. Ultimately, we may look to convert that business into an ABS if there is a valid commercial reason to do so.
What would you like the firm to be in 10 years time?
A national law firm with offices throughout the UK providing a similar range of services to those which we currently undertake for clients albeit with a significantly increased client base.
What is your view on the rise of ABSs and their impact?
We will continue to see an increase in competition through new entrants into the legal sector. Whilst there has been consolidation in the volume market, new entrants will also have an impact upon all areas of business traditionally provided by law firms.
In your opinion what makes a good lawyer?
The ability to relate to clients and to have good organisational and technical skills; to have the mindset to constantly raise the bar in everything they do and to ensure that financial discipline is at the heart of everything they do; and to work in partnership with clients to understand their challenges to ensure that they add value to the service which they provide.