Industry News

It’s October and the start of the final quarter of the year. This year has been a bit of a blur. It occurred to me a little earlier that I completely forgot to write a review of Q2! By way of mitigation, my wife and I had baby number 2 in May and finding the time to blog outside of recruiting and dealing with a crying, demanding and constantly hungry little person has been a challenge. But enough about my colleague Joe and back to more pressing matters……

The team at Thornton Legal has been as busy at it has ever been and shows no sign of slowing down. The Summer used to be the time when there as a lull brief lull in activity with hiring Partners sipping Martinis on their superyachts and candidates struggling to look after feral children during school holidays.

Just about every practice area, with the possible exception of PI, has been buoyant and this Summer we saw a record number of placements at firms both in terms of Solicitor and Paralegal hires.

Here is a summary of our experiences over the past few months:

There has been a lot of movement in the commercial disciplines, particularly real estate, corporate, employment and litigation.

Firms are slowly but surely bringing staff back to their offices, albeit with an emphasis on a blend of home and office-based work.

Salaries across the board are being stretched in an upwards direction. Firms with deep pockets and big corporate clients are offering big financial incentives to talented, junior solicitors. My feeling is that this is beginning to present problems for small to medium sized firms who are losing talent to larger firms in Manchester and Leeds, aided by the promise of home working and a degree of flexible working not seen pre Covid.

Solicitors working for smaller commercial firms are increasingly getting offers from large national and international firms. This would not have been the case a few years ago.

I know that I bang on a lot in these reviews about this being a candidate driven market, but this is a truly great time to be a junior (PQE) lawyer with so many potential options available.

Getting first interviews arranged has never been so easy with virtual interviews capable of being slotted in during lunch hours with so many people still working a proportion of the week at home.

Recruitment for roles which would ordinarily involve one interview is often now a two-stage process.

Firms that are unable or unwilling to offer an element of hybrid working are missing out on good candidates.

There is a lot of misinformation out there amongst lawyers when it comes to market rate salaries. Whilst it is true that salaries are on the rise, some of the figures quoted by prospective candidates and their expectations is eye watering to say the least.

I hope you all have an enjoyable remainder of the year. It will be Christmas before we know it! How terrifying!

Alan Sellers was called to the Bar in 1991 at the Gray's Inn Bar and is currently practising from the Liverpool Civil Law Chambers. Alan was one of the founders of the business and has been instrumental in forming Anexo Group plc. Anexo Group plc includes the leading personal injury law firm Bond Turner. 

In November 2020 it was announced that Alan and Sam Moss, Bond Turner's Managing Director, were selling some of their shares in Anexo Group to a private equity investor with them receiving £46 million in return. 

Click here for his website profile and here for Anexo's Linkedin profile. 

  • Tell us about your background, and your role at Anexo?

I originally qualified as a solicitor but transferred to the Bar 30 years ago and I've practised as a barrister ever since. I think it's fair to say that my practice has been synonymous with credit hire for longer than I care to remember but I also enjoy dealing with professional negligence, clinical negligence and all manner of civil litigation matters.

I am the Chairman of Anexo Group but continue to practise as one of Anexo's in-house team of barristers and very much still enjoy that aspect of the job.

  • What is Anexo and how does it stand out from the crowd?

The origins of the Group were the establishment of a standalone credit hire business in 1996 which relied on a panel of law firms to recover costs from insurers.

We have moved on a lot from those formative years and have created something of a unique business model by combining a direct capture credit hire business with a wholly owned legal services firm. The integrated, direct capture proposition is essential to the Group providing a complete managed service whilst also managing its risk.

  • How’s business?

Very good, thank you. We have just delivered our results for the Financial Year 2020, which were extremely encouraging.

In spite of the Covid 19 Pandemic, the Group has performed very well. Our legal services division, Bond Turner, has expanded significantly and we have continued to focus on increasing cash settlements wall using our working capital to fund further growth in our credit high division, Direct Accident Management.

  • What has the last 12 months taught you?

Just how robust and adaptable the staff have been across all of our teams, from senior management all the way down to first response. We place great value in the people who work for Anexo and are grateful for their contributions.

The group has shown considerable resilience throughout 2020 and into 2021 with both business divisions remaining fully operational. We were quick to move most of our staff members to remote working last year and managed to remain fully operational. The progression and settlement of cases was ultimately aided by moves from the Ministry of Justice to allow the remote operation of courts through online and telephone hearings.

  • What is the outlook for the next 12 months?

Very optimistic. We are in a strong financial position and will look to continue to grow organically given the significance investments made over the last 2 years.

One of the key drivers for the growth in cash collections has been the investments in legal staff. In 2019, the number of senior fee earners at Bond Turner grew by almost 43% to reach 127 by the end of the year. Further recruitment in 2020 resulted in headcount growing by a further 18 and we will continue to look to recruit top quality people as this is fundamental to support the increased number of funded cases we are expecting over the next 12 months.

  • What opportunities can you see?

I think that the arrival of DBAY Advisors Ltd as a significant shareholder in Anexo is very exciting. This coupled with what we hope will be a return to some semblance of normality over the coming months means that there is real positivity that we can continue the expansion of our main business divisions and ultimately create value for all of our shareholders.

  • What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career to date?

I am lucky to have played a key role in the development and management of the Group's business since its inception. I'm proud of the fact that this culminated in the group being admitted to trading on AIM in June 2018.

  • Recruiting is a challenge for all law businesses, why should someone choose Bond Turner?

I think that the three main drivers for candidates when it comes to recruitment into Bond Turner are; job security, career advancement and decent rewards. We have a proven track record of providing all three and continue to attract good quality recruits from both claimant and defendant orientated law firms. We have been helped in this by the appointment of a dedicated in-house recruiter who works in tandem with a small number of valued recruitment companies.

    • Finally, tell us a bit about your interests outside of work? What is it you like doing?

My family and my work keep me extremely busy, but when I do manage to get some downtime, you will probably find me on my road bike, either around Cumbria where I live, or in Tenerife where I like to go on holiday. They both have some great hills!

Since the early date of Thornton Legal, we've had a great relationship with Brabners, particularly with the Liverpool links of both businesses. A top firm with a top Managing Partner. Thanks for taking the time Nik. 

Click here for his website profile and here for his Linkedin profile.

  • Tell us about your background, and your role at Brabners?

A commercial lawyer by background. As managing partner my focus is on people, clients and profile; and setting the tone for a high performing and friendly, caring and collaborative environment where everyone is engaged and supported and feels enabled and empowered to give and get the best out of themselves and their careers

  • How’s business?

Not without challenges of course and taking nothing for granted….but faring far better than we could have hoped for a year ago with work levels up year on year. Solid foundations, finances and team spirit have stood us in good stead

  • What has the last 12 months taught you?

A lot! Being a purpose led and values driven business makes all the difference. The importance and value of trust. How much we take for granted. How important it is to appreciate the simpler pleasures in life. How little I contribute on the home front through the week…

  • What is the outlook for the next 12 months?

Very optimistic – with two office moves, a continued recruitment drive, growth opportunities and making the most of what we’ve learned about ourselves and the way we live and work, there is much to look forward to

  • How does Brabners stand out from the crowd?

Our independence and culture

  • What working practice changes will continue post pandemic?

Any and all changes which serve a useful purpose, not least in enabling colleagues to play to their strengths and harness efficiency, productivity, wellbeing and happiness as much as possible

  • What opportunities can you see?

Many, not least the increased ability to win work and recruit talent from further afield - making the most of the fact that geographic location and office-based presence is now far less important

  • Recruiting is a challenge for all law firms, why should someone choose Brabners?

We are big enough to attract big ticket work and clients but not so big that you won’t feel like a valued member of the Brabners family. You’ll be properly supported and feel genuinely part of a tight knit team but given all the encouragement you need to be ambitious for yourself (and our firm), develop and build your practice with trust and autonomy and with an absence of red tape and unnecessary complexity, process or distraction

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

Your devotion and hard work will be worth it. And, don’t worry, it’s going to be fine not to take yourself too seriously…

I'm writing this on the 14th April, at a time when it feels as if the country is rushing to reopen and life is beginning to feel a little bit more normal for many people.

The first quarter of 2021 four us as a business was extremely busy and reflects the general mood of the legal industry which is gaining more and more confidence as the months roll by.

We are approaching the point where we are working on as many legal vacancies as we were prior to the pandemic at the beginning of 2020.

Areas such as real estate, banking and corporate are seeing a flurry of recruitment activity and extension of the stamp duty holiday has seen a record number of new residential conveyancing vacancies.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record the “fight for talent” when it comes to recruitment has never been more relevant and it feels as though it is going to be difficult for the industry to keep up. What I mean is that it has always been difficult to find good lawyers for jobs, but the uncertainty of the last 12 months has exacerbated this problem with many candidates who would previously have considered moving firms, retreating into their shells, and exercising a strong degree of lawyerly caution.

I sense, from speaking to partners and lawyers, that there will be a move in some quarters to start bringing staff back to the office, at least on a part time basis, over the next few months. I've also had a number of conversations with high quality junior lawyers who have been busy throughout the pandemic and not received anything like they were expected to in terms of salary increases and bonus payments. Where the business will be extremely interested to see how this pans out over the course of the next six months.

In terms of Thornton legal as a business we have made a number of great placements into a variety of roles including pensions , real estate development , private and public family home residential property, amongst others.

What has been extremely interesting is that law firms are increasingly willing to hire junior level paralegals and legal assistance in a way that they were reluctant to for most of last year.

We very much hope that the combination of the third lockdown and the magnificent vaccination rollout ensures that the recovery continues unabated and I'm able to report similar successes in July.

Until then, stay safe and good luck.

FBC Manby Bowdler is a relatively new client of Thornton Legal, who fit very well into the profile of firm we have good success with. They are a leading full service law firm in the West Midlands, Shropshire and Worcestershire. 

Many thanks to their Managing Director, Neil Lloyd, for taking part in our Q&A series. 

Click here for his website profile and here for his Linkedin profile.

  • Tell us a about your background, and your role at FBC Manby Bowdler?

I spent the best part of 20 years leading teams at both head office and within the West Midlands for Lombard, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. I joined FBC Manby Bowdler 5 years ago as their Sales Director, with a brief to grow the Commercial offering.  I became Managing Director April 1st 2020.

  • How’s business?

Not bad considering the challenges this year.  I have a really well engaged team that are going the extra mile to deliver for our clients.  It has helped being a full service firm and the strategic investment we made last year in a new core technology platform, has held us in good stead over the past 12 month.  Our offices have remained open by appointment only throughout and certain teams such as Private Client and Conveyancing have been extremely busy.  

  • What has the last 12 months taught you?

A couple of things jump to mind.  Firstly remaining calm, focusing on our firm, not what others were doing and giving our leadership complete clarity on the direction we chose to move in.  Secondly solid consistent communication which has probably been the main lesson.  Weekly messages, monthly round ups and quarterly all staff calls have been crucial in keeping everyone informed of our progress throughout the year.  

  • What is the outlook for the next 12 months?

Positive.   We have a great team and wonderful client base both of which are supported by some of the best technology in the legal sector.  We’ll continue to invest in talented people and technology to maximise our position.

  • How does FBC Manby Bowdler stand out from the crowd?

For years we have said we deliver Stellar Service for our clients – and we train that into our teams from the minute they arrive.  We give every client the chance to provide feedback and subscribe to ReviewSolicitors which has given me lots of proud moments over the past 12 months.

  • What working practice changes will continue post pandemic?

The most obvious one is agile working.  Pre-pandemic we already had some teams working from home on occasion, myself included.    In fact I have no desk/office to call my own.  Clearly over the past 12 months everyone has now experienced working from home.  It’s suited some but not all.  We won’t be back in the office 5 days a week but I can see us asking everyone to do at least a couple of days in an office.  

The other one I hope continues is the use of video conferencing.  Don’t get me wrong I’m looking forward to meeting people in person but no-one can say it hasn’t been an important tool in our communication tool kit. 

Finally, as a sector we’ve made massive strides digitally and if all the firms in the UK are using 70% less paper, such as we are, then that’s good for both our client journey and the planet.

  • What opportunities can you see?

The biggest one I can see is that the talent pool that used to be restricted to the West Midlands so you were close to the office can now be UK wide.  I can see no reason why lateral hires need to be bound by geography – especially given our technology platform and how we’ve had to adapt to ensure supervision is still constructive.

  • Recruiting is a challenge for all law firms, why should someone choose FBC Manby Bowdler?

For almost 200 years FBC Manby Bowdler has provided legal advice to individuals, families and businesses of the West Midlands.  We offer candidates the opportunity to work with some of the best lawyers, and non-lawyers in the region where they can develop their skills within a business the prides itself of delivering the best client service. 

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

That the path you begin on might not be the one you end up going down.   I spent 20 years in banking and always thought I’d spend the rest of my career there.  When FBC approached me 5 years ago I knew very little about the legal sector but have listened and taken every opportunity to learn from those around me.  Becoming Managing Director 12 months ago was a dream come true and I’m fortunate to have a great team around me.

SAS Daniels has been a key client of Thornton Legal's since our first few months of trading back in January 2016, with several lawyers placed in their fours offices - Stockport, Macclesfield, Congleton and Chester. 

In what has been a very busy few months, thanks to their CEO and Head of Corporate, Jeremy Orrell, for taking the time to contribute to our new Q&A series. 

Click here for his website profile and here for his Linkedin profile. 

  • Tell us a about your background, and your role at SAS Daniels?

My background is as corporate finance lawyer who has led over 1000 corporate deals in my 38 years as a corporate lawyer. I am recognised as a Leading Individual in Legal 500. I have applied that knowledge and experience in firm management in my role as the firm’s CEO.

  • How’s business?

Buoyant. Business has bounced back after a difficult few months, and we are now beating pre Pandemic fess and KPI’s.

  • What has the last 12 months taught you?

The need for relentless attention to the needs of the business and to address performance and systemic issues which have not been entirely apparent. A regular revisiting of the status quo and challenging norms are key to taking the business forward. Quick decision making is vital.

  • What is the outlook for the next 12 months?

We are very positive and expect to see a significant rebound in the economy as the Lockdown is relaxed. There are unprecedented personal savings estimated to be an extra £192bn which have accumulated during the last 12 months which should fuel a consumer led recovery in uncertain times. Households expect to spend more that £50bn of their Lockdown savings in 2021. Meanwhile, corporate liquidity has hit record levels and companies are now holding more cash than at any time since records began. In due course some of this will be invested in new ventures. The spending of surplus cash by both businesses and by the consumer will stimulate the demand for legal services.

  • How does SAS Daniels stand out from the crowd?

There are few firms that provide city centre level expertise from outside the main city centres. We provide that. Our geographical reach, with 4 offices located in Cheshire and Greater Manchester,  ensure that we are well placed to provide that level of expertise for clients based in those areas.

  • What working practice changes will continue post pandemic?

There will be more WFH but we believe strongly that working in an office is critical for team working , mentoring , proactivity , creativity , mental wellbeing , and personal and firm growth.

  • What opportunities can you see?

We believe that there is a significant opportunity to benefit from the anticipated increased demand for legal services.

  • Recruiting is a challenge for all law firms, why should someone choose SAS Daniels?

We are a firm with a strong ethos where we want to see everyone reach their full potential. Career development is at the heart of our business and key to our continued success.  

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

That law is a business and firms should be run as a business. Opportunities were missed by many firms but I think that all well run firms understand that they need to provide high level expertise delivered at a competitive price with excellent service delivery.