Lisa Shacklock

Lisa Shacklock

Client Services Director at Knights

Lisa Shacklock, client services director at Knights, tells The Brief about the latest additions to the business in the North of England, and its continuing strategy for growth.

The previous time The Brief spoke to Knights – the fast-growing, and largest, regional professional services business in the UK – it had recently acquired Keebles in Sheffield and Shulmans in Leeds. It had also announced the imminent acquisition of the York and Lincoln firm Langleys, a deal that went on to complete in March 2022.

Since then, as client services director Lisa Shacklock explains, Knights’ expansion has, if anything, only gathered pace.

In 2022 it acquired the Portsmouth-headquartered South East firm Coffin Mew. Last year it entered the Bristol market with the acquisition of Meade King, while its purchase of Baines Wilson provided a foothold in Carlisle.

Knights, which had an existing office in Stockton-on-Tees, also built on its presence in the North East last year when it acquired St James’ Square in the region’s largest city and economic hub, Newcastle.

Knights has not limited itself to acquiring law firms. In May 2022 it bolstered its real estate offering when it bought the Lincoln-based town planning consultancy Globe Consultants.

As well as growing via acquisitions, Knights has also invested in new offices, opening new “flagship” premises in Brighton, and announcing plans for similar openings in Sheffield, Bristol, Exeter and Newcastle where it is set to move into Bank House on Pilgrim Street in March 2024.

Integrating colleagues and clients

As one of 13 client service directors, Shacklock is responsible for Knights’ Carlisle, Newcastle, Teesside and York offices.

Shacklock’s route to her current role began when, in 2007, she joined the Manchester firm Turner Parkinson as a commercial litigator, having qualified earlier that year with Berg Legal. In 2013 she became a partner at Turner Parkinson, which went on to be acquired by Knights in 2018.

Following that acquisition she became a disputes partner at Knights and, after a couple of years, began to get more actively involved in the process of integrating new colleagues into the business following its many further acquisitions. This led her to take a full-time client services role in 2021.

“I wanted something that would stretch me and enable me to continue learning and enhance my understanding of the business,” she explains.

“It’s a multifaceted role. Primarily it involves leading our unique culture and working with our people, helping them to integrate and coaching them on various aspects of our business, from client engagement to sound financial management.

“It also focuses on recruitment, business growth and talking to clients to ensure that, as a business, we are working as one team on all aspects of a client’s business and private wealth needs.  

I love the variety and opportunity that a professional services business like ours brings. When we acquire a new business I make it part of my mission to meet their network of clients and any key intermediaries to understand them and to help us have the best possible impact on the existing clients and the local business community.

Culture, geography, service lines

When considering an acquisition, Shacklock continues, Knights considers a number of factors: culture, geography and client services being key ones.

“The first thing we focus on, because it goes through the whole lifeblood of our business, is culture. Will the people fit with our people and work with us as part of one team?” she says.

“We also look at whether it gives us an entrance into a new geography. And then, does it present opportunities to collaborate with them and their existing clients?”

The acquisition of Baines Wilson in Carlise provides, Shacklock explains, a good example. She says, “They were a core commercial firm, offering excellence in real estate, corporate, employment and dispute resolution.

“But they didn’t have a private wealth function and would refer that work out to third parties. Now our Carlisle office has a full service offering and our private wealth colleagues can often be seen meeting Cumbria-based clients to really enhance that excellent service they are already used to.

“We have also been able to boost their real estate offering because, as well as lawyers, we have a team of town planners, planning lawyers, construction and development lawyers as well Stamp Duty Land Tax advisers. We are able to service all of our clients’ needs within our one business, one team that would otherwise have been referred out to a range of separate specialists.”

The Carlisle office provides a bridgehead into Cumbria, home to the Lake District National Park. While Baines Wilson’s penetration into the county’s agricultural sector was minimal, the addition of Knights’ private wealth capabilities and “first class landed estates team”, means that Knights now has both the geographical presence and range of services to cater to this market.

Real impact in the region

The acquisition of St James’ Square in Newcastle has, similarly to its Carlisle expansion, enabled Knights to extend the range of services the acquired firm was able to provide to clients.

Now, in addition to the core commercial and real estate offering that St James’ Square had traditionally offered, Knights – through its existing capabilities and the recruitment of new partners and teams in the Newcastle office – can provide clients with advice on private wealth and EU competition law. New partners have also boosted its corporate and real estate offerings.

“That creates a real impact in the city because we can do work that might not easily have been serviced in Newcastle,” Shacklock continues.

We can be the first port of call for all of these different specialists that we’ve got across the business, from environmental, regulatory and aviation to tax and contested trusts and probate.

Overall, Shacklock says, Knights employs around 450 professionals in the North of England. Reeling off a list of other regional stalwarts, she says, “We have almost double the scale of even our largest competitor in the North, because we’re so regionally focused.”

If it’s the right thing to do…

As for the future, she says Knights does not have specific targets to have acquired a certain number of firms by a certain date.

“Cultural fit will always be the main driver when it comes to both acquisition and recruitment, and we remain focused on both,” she explains. “Recruitment success has been strong since entering Carlisle and Newcastle in Summer 2023.

“Already we have made ten lateral hires, five of them partners, and we are keen to recruit more into our unique environment focused on quality and collaboration.

“The traditional partnership model is feeling really strained, and we’re seeing that a lot with businesses that we are talking to. People now know what we are about, and we’re getting more and more businesses approaching, curious to learn more.

“We are also seeing lateral hires coming to us because the risk of the traditional equity structure does not exist with us.

We provide an environment where they can do their work and deliver for their clients without being pressured by targets, with access to all of our capabilities, and also the opportunity for them to get involved with a wider range of projects and clients compared to what they might be used to.


Knights plc

Connect with Lisa Shacklock via LinkedIn