Employment law and HR group aims to double in size

Loch: Business focused on long-term relationships

A group of businesses which includes an employment law firm and HR company is looking to double in size over the next three years by acquiring either legal or HR businesses, its founder has said.

Loch Associates Group (LAG) has just completed its latest deal, acquiring Sightscreen HR, based in Kent.

Pam Loch said she created LAG as a law and HR firm in 2007 because she knew from her background in insurance that there was a “different way” to run a professional business.

She said LAG was unique in the South-East in offering legal, mediation, HR, training and wellbeing services under the same roof.

Ms Loch said LAG operated as an umbrella brand with herself as managing director, rather than directly owning the four businesses within it, which functioned independently and with many of their own clients.

She is a director, with Joe Milner, of Loch Employment Law, which has offices in Tunbridge Wells, Hove and London, and accounts for more than half of LAG’s total employees. Ms Loch is also main shareholder in the other LAG companies.

The group has doubled in size over the last three years and Ms Loch said she would “love to double in size” again over the next three.

“It may take longer, but it will all depend on market conditions. That will influence what people want to do next. There has been a huge expansion in the number of people working as self-employed consultants, particularly for law firms, but that may change.”

Ms Loch worked in insurance for six years before becoming an employment lawyer at Eversheds, at City firm Fladgate and then European head of employment and pensions at US firm Fried Frank.

She founded LAG just before the credit crunch. “I knew from my involvement in employment tribunals that a lot of businesses end up in tribunals or settling for large amounts of money, simply because they get the process wrong.”

There was a “preventative element” in LAG’s HR services which could help them avoid it. “You could say I am doing myself out of work as a lawyer, but the group is very much about long-term relationships, so the client will come back with other work.”

The acquisition of Sightscreen HR adds professional coaching and leadership training to Loch HR’s offering.

Managing director Ben Holt, who worked at Sightscreen with freelance HR consultants, becomes managing director of Loch HR, and Loch Training and Wellbeing.

Ms Loch said many law firms were thinking about ways to “add value” but HR consultants were “a different sort of people” and that had to be taken into account.

“We want to create a team of people who are working to a common goal and not working in silos.”

She said that once the firm had expanded over the next few years, she would consider converting it to an employee ownership trust.

Ms Loch said she had received approaches from private equity firms and others, and she was still open to offers of external investment, but would prefer to avoid it.

“It can have an impact on how decisions are taken on expansion and how you treat your people. I want to stand by the people who are really committed to the firm and treat them well.”

Ms Loch said she was “very transparent” about the need for succession planning and had discussed it with her staff.

“The question for people who set up businesses on their own is, how do you leave behind a business which can thrive?”

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