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14 December, 2015 - 14:09 By Angela Murray

New era dawns for ambitious law firm

Birketts 22 Station Road Cambridge

A new Cambridge office reflects continued growth for Birketts, on course to achieve its ambition of becoming the region’s ‘pre-eminent law firm’.

Birketts’ success – and Cambridge expansion – stems from both organic growth and strategic determination, says CEO Jonathan Agar. He said: “We have enjoyed continued success for over 150 years, but more recently we made the strategic decision to shift from being a major Suffolk firm, based in Ipswich, to becoming the dominant firm in East Anglia.

“To achieve this, we opened offices in Norwich (2004), Cambridge (2008), and Chelmsford (2010) and now we have a strong reputation as a regional full service firm – not a London-based firm with a ‘regional plus’. 

“This approach has attracted clients from every industry sector and also from the capital.’ The Legal 500 Guide rankings underline the success of this strategy, with the firm now recognised as a ‘regional heavyweight’, ranked within the 31 ‘top-tier firms’, and with an impressive array of awards including the private client team being named national winners at the 2015 Legal 500 UK Awards.”

Growth in Cambridge is significant, comments Agar, prompting the move to larger office space this November. Since 2008, the team has grown from five to 71 (including nine partners) and provides a full service offering to both business and private clients.

This emphasis on service range is crucial to current and future growth, says Agar, particularly in Cambridge, a region where specific sectors can easily dominate the client portfolio.

He said: “Our core aim has always been to provide excellent advice and service to entrepreneurial business owners and ‘families with more complex legal needs’, but we are determined to keep our shape by maintaining our breadth and depth of service, and by working for clients in every sector.”

For Agar, this also means Birketts is well placed to respond to the uniquely varied nature of the Cambridge economy. “We work with both traditional and contemporary clients, respecting institutions with long established roots while also matching the energy and ambition of fast growing new players.

“Our clients range from startups to some of the city’s oldest firms and families and many client relationships have evolved from one or two services to a much broader range, including international support. This also reflects our patience and our commitment to the long view, important especially for clients experiencing very rapid growth.”

Birketts in Cambridge has experienced similar growth itself, especially in strategic land advice where lawyer numbers have increased from two to 22. Led by Kath Herbert, the firm has been involved in some of the city’s highest profile developments, including the sale of land to AstraZeneca at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and advising a consortia of landowners on major strategic sites such as the North West Cambridge project.

M&A also generates significant business, as does corporate work for clients across the local economy, including IT, services, agriculture and manufacturing where, notes partner and corporate law specialist Adrian Seagers, many firms are now rapidly moving up the value chain, driven by technology, innovation and export sales. 

“We’re also working for a growing number of London-based financial clients,” adds Seagers: “These firms are looking to access the wider pool of deal activity that can only be found in the regions, and so come to us for professional service combined with detailed local knowledge.”

Birketts in Cambridge is also proudly entrepreneurial, a culture now sustained by offices which literally – from the fifth-floor boardroom – open up new horizons for partners and staff.

“Our Cambridge team has always had a pioneering spirit,” comments Caroline Stenner, a partner and head of Birketts’ Cambridge private client team.

“We have enjoyed consistent growth from the beginning – despite setting up at the bottom of the recession – and continue to attract people with an entrepreneurial mindset, and with energy and ambition. Our corporate culture makes a real contribution to client retention, and to our wider reputation which is particularly important in Cambridge where word of mouth can be so valuable.”

Entrepreneurship is also evidenced in Birketts’ use of ‘modern’ tools such as video and social media, innovations which recently won the firm two 2015 Cambridgeshire Digital Awards. “Our strategy here is deliberate,” says Agar. “We want to be a contemporary, timeless firm, and ‘consumable’ across the generations. These tools allow us to present a clear and concise summary of our brand and our business, and also to challenge to the sometimes ‘tweedy’ reputation of law firms in general.”

Good service is another essential says Agar. “Law is a product – the wrap-around is what makes the difference. Every firm says they deliver excellent client support but we have an established customer care programme which is embedded across the firm, and which informs our behaviour and our values.

“We demand complete buy-in from all staff at every level and this contributes directly to successful team and client relationships.’ 
Consistent performance, sustained growth and an entrepreneurial spirit – key, says Agar, not just to current stability but also to future success.

“We are an ambitious growing firm,” he says – “and we haven’t stopped yet.”

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