Chris Marston, chief executive, LawNet

Chris Marston, chief executive, LawNet

Collaboration is a defining factor for future-focused law firms, says independent law firm network LawNet, responding to research that showed one-fifth of the profession acknowledge their firms are not keeping pace with sector change.

Following the publication of the 2018 Bellwether report from LexisNexis UK, LawNet chief executive Chris Marston has pointed to the importance of focused support for independent firms, saying it’s vital in today’s climate that leaders can access fresh thinking and structured management support.

He said: “Growth-minded independent firms with an eye on future performance are looking for help in shaping their future, not just better buying power.  Certainly, that’s the feedback we get from our existing members and it’s what attracts new firms to join.”

“We want to equip our member firms with cutting edge strategic leadership and management tools, so that they can identify solutions and the necessary resources to stay ahead.  As a group with combined revenues of more than £300 million, we’re well placed to source and deliver insights, resources and fresh thinking in a way that just wouldn’t be possible for most firms, with limited budgets and so many big issues to grapple with.”

He added: “Being able to network with like-minded firms has never been more valuable.  There’s a peace of mind in sharing and finding that you’re not on your own, or sense checking some new thinking.   Collaboration has to be the way ahead for independent firms, and our recent work in the areas of both AI and legal technology and in client experience has shown what firms can achieve together.”

The latest recruits to join LawNet are Barr Ellison LLP and Debenhams Ottaway LLP, creating a 72-strong membership.

Barr Ellison LLP has 55 staff at its Cambridge base. Alongside its private client offering, the firm has a renowned catastrophic personal injury team and in recent years has grown a substantial commercial property department.  Robert Curry, managing partner, said: “We have been growing at around 20% per year and while much of that growth is on the private client side, our main focus now is on developing our corporate offering.  It currently represents about one third of our work, and our target is a 50/50 split in work streams.  The drivers for our future growth will be advanced through our membership of LawNet.”

At Hertfordshire-based Debenhams Ottaway LLP, the firm has grown its team by 50% in the last seven years and now has 120 people.  Recognised by the Legal 500, it has specialist teams in the charity, healthcare, private wealth, education and recruitment sectors, working with a client base across Hertfordshire and London.   Managing partner Susan Glenholme said: “We have a strong track record in client service, with our research showing that 99% of clients would use us again, and we will be building on this with the introduction of LawNet’s rigorous customer excellence mark audit and assessment.”

Marston added: “It’s interesting to see that both of our newest member firms have a 50/50 ratio of male and female partners.  Debenhams Ottaway has been recognised as a ‘diversity pioneer’ in the sector[1] and Barr Ellison believes that attracting a diverse workforce has been key to its rapid organic growth, with female lawyers making up the greater part of the firm’s workforce.  It’s forward thinking like this that sets our members apart.”

 The profile of LawNet members is typically £2m – £25m turnover with membership by invitation.  Firms joining must make a commitment to achieve the LawNet ISO9001 quality standard within two years, which incorporates the network’s customer-facing LawNet Excellence Mark programme.  The ISO standard provides a direct route to dual accreditation with the Law Society’s Lexcel practice management standard.

[1] The Lawyer

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