Bates Wells Braithwaite (BWB), the charity law specialist, has claimed that its new ABS status will enable it to provide the first ‘unified service’ in the City.
The firm’s non-legal services have been set up by accountant Jim Clifford, who joined the firm last month from Baker Tilly and, since Wednesday last week, is an equity partner.
Mr Clifford told Legal Futures he had brought a core team with him from Baker Tilly to work on the new ‘Advisory’ and ‘Impact’ services. Larger projects are sub-contracted, both to the accountancy firm and to Cass Business School, where he is a visiting research fellow.
Mr Clifford said BWB Advisory would focus on mergers and acquisitions and business strategy, working mainly with charities and social enterprises, while BWB Impact would concentrate on social research and social finance.
He said that for some clients, there were real benefits in having all the services it needed under one roof.
“For some having a really closely integrated service combining complex advice and legal services is effective and efficient,” Mr Clifford said. “It means that lawyers more deeply understand what they are trying to document. There can be a closer dialogue around the transaction, if it starts with lawyers and brokers sitting and talking together.
“There are cost savings. It takes you past the stage of needing a big brief, and a big transfer of knowledge.
“It’s not appropriate for all clients and all transactions. For example there may be an existing strong relationship with an individual lawyer, who has a very high level of knowledge.”
Mr Clifford said there was “considerable demand” for the new services and he expected staff numbers to grow.
He is a member of the UK advisory board of the G8 social impact investment taskforce, and last year received an OBE for services to social investment. Mr Clifford is also co-founder of a social enterprise aimed at improving adoption for harder to place children, and has nine adopted children of his own.
“The whole field of adoption is very dear to my heart,” he said. “We should be concerned not just to deliver transactions well, but to support others and give something back to society. At the same time we should be giving organisations and businesses a chance do that.”
A spokesman for the firm said the transition to an ABS confirmed BWB’s ambition to be “advisors of choice in the rapidly developing areas of impact investing and social value” and reinforced its reputation for innovation.
Martin Bunch, managing partner, added: “In reshaping as an ABS we have enhanced BWB’s DNA, fusing our legal expertise with Jim’s advisory experience. I’m very excited at the possibilities that this new era for BWB presents.”
With 30 partners and 190 staff, BWB offers the full range of commercial law services while claiming to work with more charities and social enterprises than any other UK firm.