“Unstuffy” ABS hits £7m turnover in less than five years


Holden Smith: James Smith (l) and David Bancroft

A Yorkshire alternative business structure founded in 2019 by a solicitor and non-lawyer has grown its turnover from £500,000 in year one to £7m as it expands its range of services.

Solicitor and director James Smith said Holden Smith, which began as a specialist conveyancing practice with a small amount of private client work, had diversified into both corporate and family law in the last year.

“We have a solid platform of staff and strong relationship with introducers and referrers. Our team is young and dynamic, trained to say customers rather than clients, and we try not to be stuffy.

“We embrace every bit of technology that the market has to offer to improve client experience and productivity.

“Some people bite back and see technology as an enemy, but if you embrace it with good, well-qualified staff, that is the combination you need. If you rely solely on technology, you become a bit faceless. There should always be a human element.”

Mr Smith said around 80% of Holden Smith’s onboarding and initial client contact, including the client-care letter, was dealt with through apps.

The law firm was set up in March 2019 by Mr Smith and Dave Bancroft, director and business development specialist, together with financial adviser Jamie Megson, another non-lawyer, who provided services through a separate business. Mr Smith and Mr Bancroft had previously worked at Yorkshire firm Ison Harrison.

Mr Smith and Mr Bancroft bought out Mr Megson at the end of last year. The firm now has more than 100 staff.

Mr Smith said the combination of a lawyer and non-lawyer manager was crucial to the firm’s success: “There would not be the same spark if the firm was run by two lawyers. Having a non-lawyer breaks down barriers and helps makes less risk-averse.

“Everything is a calculated risk. We don’t go looking for risk, and if an opportunity comes up we risk-test it, but if it’s the right opportunity, we go for it.”

The firm closed its Ilkley office when a lease came to an end in March last year but will be opening another in Queensbury near Bradford next month to join existing offices in Huddersfield, Leeds, Horsforth and Elland.

He said Holden Smith now had a corporate team, led by non-executive director Rob Kelly.

The family law team, led by Leanne Pollard, had expanded to six, with a seventh fee-earner arriving next month, along with a new head of private client.

Mr Smith said the focus for the firm would, as in the last year, be on consolidation and profitability. He said the proportion of the firm’s work that was residential and commercial property had fallen to 65%.

“We’re both conscious that we have grown quickly. The time to expand again may not be this year. Everyone is waiting to see what the property market will do.”

He said nothing was “off the cards” in the medium term, including expanding outside Yorkshire, making acquisitions or bringing in external funding “to go a bit further”.




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