LawNet , the collaborative, non-profit network for independent law firms, has announced a record intake of new members, taking membership to 71 firms – the highest for 20 years.
Six new firms have joined during the past year, with the two most recent recruits being London-based William Sturges and Martin Tolhurst Solicitors in Kent, bringing the combined turnover of member firms to more than £300m.
Managing partner Richard Carter of Martin Tolhurst, which has 160 staff across six offices, said: “We were delighted to join a group that had impressed us from afar. We like the fact that the network is member-owned and will support our firm in building our own brand. We are keen to get involved in the excellent training programme and the collaborative approach with like-minded law firms is already evident from our first few days of membership.”
At Westminster-based William Sturges, with just under 50-staff, managing partner James Hannon said: “As a firm we want to make greater efficiencies, and membership will give us access to resources that would otherwise be out of reach to a firm of our size. We expect to see benefits in helping us manage risk, satisfy regulatory requirements and reduce our professional indemnity premiums, as well as giving us marketing and other expertise at a level that we could not otherwise expect to have in-house. The opportunity to share ideas and best practice with leaders in other progressive firms is also very attractive.”
LawNet chief executive Chris Marston added: “Growing the membership increases our influence and our buying power, which is vital for the future success of the network. But we will never lower the bar and any firm wanting to join LawNet must satisfy our stringent eligibility criteria and be a true fit in terms of quality and outlook.
“The new members who join us today are strong, independent, resourceful businesses who, despite being major players in their chosen geographical or sector markets, nonetheless see the value of being part of something bigger.
“They’re drawn to the collaborative, non-competing approach, which is so highly valued by our members.”
He added: “Our membership remains very stable, but consolidation in the sector has an inevitable impact, and we continue to be focused on identifying firms that may add to the mix, as well filling some geographic gaps.”
The six firms joining LawNet during the past year are regional firms Tozers  and Farnfields  in the South West, property law specialists Stepien Lake  and full service firm William Sturges  in London. The two largest firms to join this year are Martin Tolhurst Solicitors  in Kent, with six offices and 160 staff, and VWV , with 70 partners and 430 staff, operating across the SE, SW and West Midlands.
LawNet membership is by invitation, typically to firms fitting the profile of £2m – £25m turnover who are prepared to commit to the LawNet ISO 9001 quality standard, which is mandatory for all firms and incorporates the network’s customer-facing LawNet Excellence Mark programme, through which LawNet firms measure the client experience using mystery shopping and client satisfaction surveys.
LawNet’s ISO 9001 quality standard also incorporates all the requirements of the Law Society’s Lexcel practice management standard, creating a direct route through which LawNet members can achieve dual accreditation.