Key sector strengths drive law firm's expansion with new office launch
Exeter law firm Michelmores has opened an office in Bristol as it targets turnover of £25 million and a place in the top 100 law firms in the UK.
With the fall-out from the introduction of the Legal Services Act, which has opened up the market to new players including supermarkets, now starting to take effect the region's law firms each been adopting different strategies to ensure their place what is set to become a crowded market.
They will be joined by two further agricultural partners, former Wilsons colleagues, Ben Sharples and Miles Farren, together with the rest of the employees from the Wilsons Bristol office.
Four senior agricultural law appointments, supported by Philip Wolfgang who heads the Exeter office's agricultural team, make a strong statement about the firm's ambitions for this sector.
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All of the team are nationally recognised, with Peter Williams acknowledged as a specialist in contentious agricultural law. He is the editor of the main reference book Scammell and Densham's Law of Agricultural Holdings.
Michelmores, which is headquartered in Exeter, also has an office in London with a smaller base in Sidmouth. It currently has 49 partners.
Managing partner Malcolm Dickinson, said: "Opening an office in Bristol has been under consideration for some time and the availability of Peter Williams and the Wilsons team provided us with an opportunity not only to greatly strengthen our agricultural practice but to acquire an ongoing business in a strategically significant location.
"The Bristol office will undoubtedly grow over time and will become an important resource. We believe that the Exeter, Bristol, London axis will have real impact on new business potential."
The Bristol office is expected to boost the firm's profits, with turnover expected to be at about £3 million in its first full financial year.
Michelmores says this will take it into the UK's top 100 law firms with a projected turnover of £25 million from current revenues of £19.2 million.
Mr Dickinson added: "The agricultural business has provided the platform for this move but it is clear that we can grow our business in Bristol across other practice areas and sectors."
Cost cutting in the public and corporate sectors has already seen the firm pick up increasing volumes of work from London via its Chancery Lane office.
Foot Anstey opened an office in Bristol last year while Ashfords has pursued growth through a merger with the London firm Rochman Landau.
The trend towards consolidation in the sector has seen Bond Pearce enter into merger talks with Newcastle-based Dickinson Dees and Midlands-based Browne Jacobson buying part of Exeter-based Veitch Penny in order to enter the Westcountry market.
Earlier this week, Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, gave a speech at Exeter Racecourse to devon and Somerset members where he urged firms to do what they could to 'stand out from the crowd'.
"I don't think there is any salvation in going down-market, nor do I think a price-led strategy is a sustainable solution for our members. Being different, standing out, guaranteeing high-standards of service and quality across the board and projecting those standards to a confused market is what it is all about," he said.