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The Business Magazine July 2024
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It’s all about people for law firm HCR

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To understand law firm HCR you have to understand its people: how they think and how they act.

“We like to think we are not like typical lawyers,” emphasises Head of the Thames Valley Corporate team, Rachel Turner (pictured, right), despite being an award-winning lawyer at an award-winning law firm.

So why is HCR’s attitude so successful? The point she makes is one many of HCR’s growing number of corporate clients recognise: the firm acts differently from how you might expect traditional lawyers to act.

“HCR is perhaps the Thames Valley law firm you might never have heard of, but once you open the tin you’ll discover what we can do,” said Partner Robert Rice (pictured, left).

He’s got a point. It’s why HCR was The Business Magazine’s 2021 Thames Valley Deals Awards Law Firm of the Year.

Turner and Rice joined the firm about four years ago to steer its Thames Valley corporate team’s progress.

Typical of their approach is attention to the relationship, network-focused side of doing business.

This ranges from hosting client events to discuss the situation in Ukraine with an ex-NATO adviser as the guest speaker to innovative events for spending valuable time getting to know clients rather than just transaction time.

“We always try to add value in client relationships by sharing our knowledge,” said Rice.

Turner added: “We’re a very professional place but these client and contact team building days reflect our approach and attitude – it’s about getting the balance right in relationships.”

“Clients choose lawyers based on whether they connect with you and trust you do to the job properly,” she continued. “Our reputation goes hand-in-hand with who we are as individuals and with the firm’s culture.”

Rice observed: “On one deal, we had client feedback saying ‘we didn’t know lawyers could be like that. You turned what I assumed would be a tough, nightmarish series of negotiations into something quite enjoyable’.”

Thames Valley growth

HCR’s Thames Valley expansion took a major step forward two years with an office move from Reading’s Green Park to Aquis House, opposite the railway station.

But expansion risked being derailed almost immediately as the office move happened five days before the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.

“We’d just unpacked when we had to leave the building,” recalled Rice. At the time, the whole firm worked towards emerging from the pandemic stronger – and it has.

“We have exceeded our targets for the first two years of the new Thames Valley office, including being more than 20% ahead at the end of this financial year,” he said.

The Thames Valley office headcount has increased significantly in the last six months. It has risen to 38 people and Turner expects this will be nearer 50 in the next 18 months.

To reinforce HCR’s view that it thinks differently from other law firms, she points out: “When recruiting, we look for lawyers who are also business people and understand that the two go hand in hand.”

During the pandemic, the firm merged with Hewitsons, a firm with offices in Cambridge, Northampton and Milton Keynes. This introduced two more locations and a further 200 people into the firm.

HCR now has 11 offices covering a broad swathe across central England from Cambridge to Cardiff. Annual turnover is around £65m turnover with more than 820 staff.

“The firm’s culture gives us the platform and support to take the Thames Valley office to where we want to be,” said Turner.

Full-service offering

HCR’s team offers broad-based experience working in multiple sectors, particularly for the Thames Valley’s concentration of technology, life sciences and media companies. The firm also acts for around a quarter of all independent schools in England and has sector-specific ‘champions’ based in each office.

A former Royal Mint legal eagle who is a cryptocurrency/digital asset and blockchain expert provides clients with the latest support on digital currencies and NFTs. “We are keeping up to speed on the way the world is moving,” noted Turner

An international dimension is also important. Head of International Nicolas Groffman, a fluent Mandarin speaker who spent 16 years in Shanghai and Beijing with law firms DLA and King Wood Mallesons, supports clients doing business overseas, often via their supply chain. And the firm benefits from being a member of the Law Exchange Network of independent law firms.

The duo feels HCR is now gaining recognition for its corporate work, typified by its deals activity. It topped Experian’s list of law firms completing the most UK mergers and acquisitions in 2021/22.

“We are particularly pleased that on corporate deals we are achieving not only volume but also quality in the transactions we support,” said Turner.

HCR’s priorities

Looking ahead, the firm is working to expand in several areas:

• Growing its international hubs by building its presence in the US, the Netherlands, India and the Nordic countries

• Bringing on tomorrow’s talent by ensuring its trainee lawyers learn the art of business development and understand the time it takes to build lasting relationships and a strong referral network.

• Embracing new ways of working for both clients and employees in a post-Covid age, particularly around remote and flexible working.

• Focusing on cyber security advice for clients, for example, through its support of the Three Counties Defence and Securities Expo and its three-day cyber conference in Cheltenham, home of the National Cyber Accelerator.

• Supporting Henley Business Angels, a network of business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors focused on start-up businesses launched by alumni of Henley Business School or the University of Reading.

Rice said: “For Henley Business Angels, we provide straightforward, down-to-earth, pragmatic advice to start-ups through our ‘investment readiness’ workshops. You never know, these early-stage companies might be tomorrow’s unicorns (a start-up valued at over $1bn).”

Can-do, will do

Turner and Rice are upbeat about how HCR can continue supporting Thames Valley businesses.

“HCR has an incredible ‘can-do’ atmosphere that is brilliant to work in. Rob and I have more enthusiasm and energy than we have ever had,” said Turner.

Five legal risk areas businesses should be thinking about

HCR highlights these key business threats that companies should be on top of:

• Cybersecurity – especially the legal threats if customer data is lost or systems are hacked.

• ESG – making sure company policies are understood and followed on environmental, social and governance issues.

• Supply chain – complex global trading arrangements could mask exposure to sanctioned countries.

• National security – the latest legislation allows the government to ‘call in’ certain corporate transactions if it has concerns about national security.

• Rising cost of living – higher prices can lower the value of businesses being bought and sold.


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