Kieran Toal, partner at Shoosmiths Manchester, on why it’s so important to find the right firm for you and what the future holds for his team...

The legal sector has gone through a period of unprecedented change and over the past few years new entrants into the market have reshaped the industry. However, for many – me included – traditional law firms that hold the right values, keep their clients at the forefront of everything they do but are still adaptable, forward thinking and evolutionary will never be replaced. However, for most lawyers, finding the right firm that fits them is the challenge. I’ve been through that journey and I’m pleased to say that I’ve found my ideal firm but it took a while...

I started my career as a pro-footballer at Manchester United. It was an exciting time and I was there full time for five years until I left in 1993. I was lucky enough to play alongside some of the club’s recent greats such as Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Neville. My time at United gave me a sense of discipline and purpose that I’ve never lost. After leaving, I attended Sheffield Hallam University followed by Inns of Court School of Law where I completed my academic training as a barrister. My career then took another turn as I ran my own sports marketing company for a while before joining Addleshaw Booth & Co, which later became Addleshaw Goddard. I spent almost 11 years in Addleshaws’ corporate team and I know my time both as a sportsman and in the corporate world helped shaped my work and my understanding of my clients’ needs.

It was a big decision to leave Addleshaws and I knew the move had to be right. But after meeting the team at Shoosmiths I quickly realised the fit was there so I joined in June last year and I’m pleased to say that I’ve not looked back. I’ve been asked many times what attracted me to Shoosmiths; obviously I wanted – and was ready for - a fresh challenge but more importantly it was a firm that I could relate to as it was ambitious, entrepreneurial and looking to grow its presence in the Manchester and wider North West markets.

I’d noted with interest that it had been hiring some great lawyers from other Manchester firms who were respected in their areas of specialism which was a massive draw for me. I also saw it as an exciting opportunity to help shape the firm’s offering and to be part of a significant growth story. In my view, this was a golden chance that I wanted to grab with both hands. Culturally, there was also great synergy as it has an excellent reputation for delivery and client service; these are two areas that I’m passionate about and won’t compromise on. On a more personal note, the role also enabled me to do more private equity work and to be part of a national private equity capability. I had joined the private equity team at Addleshaws back in 2002 so I knew the sector and had experience in it but Shoosmiths gave me the chance to help Mark Dawson – who heads up the corporate group in Manchester - grow the offering and that was something I couldn’t pass up.

We all know that reputation is king and I like to think we’re well respected in the legal market and wider business communities – both as a firm and as a department. The real challenge for us is to raise our profile in what is a crowded space but that is happening thanks to the quality of the lawyers that we’re recruiting and the kind of deals we are working on, including; advising Mobeus Equity Partners, Connection Capital and their management teams on the acquisition / management buyout of Virgin Wines in November 2013. We also acted for Palatine Private Equity on the acquisition of the Gusto restaurant chain from Living Ventures.

To sum up, we’re looking to the future and that is being driven by being different, by offering first class advice and service with an unstuffy and diverse firm culture. I’m pleased to say it’s working as clients and intermediaries like our focussed and collaborative approach. The end goal for us is to become an established corporate law firm in the Manchester market and I believe we’re on the road to long term success.