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The Business Magazine May 2024
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Herrington Carmichael continues to grow as it breaks £20 million 

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We sat down with Herrington Carmichael’s Managing Partner Yavan Brar as he reflected on over 10 years of year-on-year growth. We asked him about the firm’s journey from what was a High Street law firm to now breaking £20 million, reaching nearly 200 staff, and becoming a full-service law firm. 

Yavan Brar

How has Herrington Carmichael developed over the years? What was the defining moment? 

The turning point was around the 2008 financial crisis, and we recognised that we needed to focus on our clients and their requirements. This led us to offering more complex legal services for owner-managed and entrepreneurial clients, as well as our private clients. This allowed us to provide a wide range of specialist legal services that were typically only found in the much larger firms or via specialist barristers – now we, a regional law firm, offered it to businesses, entrepreneurs, and private clients… and we were pretty good at it. 

We expanded our trainee programme dramatically, from 2 trainees per year to between 6 and 8 annually. Now, 15 years later, we’ve scaled it up to 14 trainees per year. We aim to appeal to the best talent in the region. Two years ago, we began offering multiple routes to qualifying as a lawyer, not just the traditional route. Our goal with the trainee programme is to foster great talent that stays with the company longer term, so that we can further invest into specialisms and growth. We’ve produced several trainees who’ve grown to become Partners at HC. 

Another strategic decision was working towards consolidating into a single office HQ, after being in several high street offices. We wanted to ensure there was an efficient flow of information and sharing of skills between all team members so we could leverage each other’s strengths. 

What do you believe were key drivers for success? 

Two factors fuelled our sustained high growth in the decade following the recession. Trusting our colleagues and their ideas. This has been crucial. We have an entrepreneurial culture where lawyers are empowered to propose ideas and specialisms, which I can then support through training and the necessary resources. 

Rather than micromanaging my team, I aspire to trust that we have hired well and that the resources we invest into their ideas and training pays off – which has proven to be a successful strategy. 

We have maintained strict financial discipline. We don’t carry debt and this allows us to substantially reinvest in growth. For example, I remember during the recession there were many law firms who were downsizing their private client services or reducing their corporate ones due to falling demand. We decided to invest a substantial amount into growing team numbers. I trusted our Head of Family and it has paid off with us having highly specialised and expert family lawyers. 

How have you adapted recruitment strategies to retain top talent? 

Rapid growth inevitably brings staffing challenges. We have learnt, through various challenges and trial and error, that tailoring to individual motivations proves to be successful for both the firm and the individual. 

Our retention plan is to understand each lawyer’s unique passions, then provide training and client work tailored to that. For instance, lawyers interested in high-value corporate work are given opportunities to build their experience and skills in complex cases. Each lawyer is also encouraged to choose a specialism and to grow into it with the backing and resources of the firm. 

As a firm, we strive for a healthy mix of internal talent development through our trainee programme, while simultaneously hiring seasoned lawyers with key experience and the ability to mentor. 

You mentioned financial discipline that drove your growth, can you elaborate? 

I do believe our financial discipline has set us apart and driven growth. Many firms overextend themselves financially when they pursue rapid growth. We make sure to remain financially disciplined and not take on huge debt. This gives us stability but also the freedom to be ambitious. 

Scaling to over £20 million in revenue has brought inevitable growing pains, we have remained grounded in our core values. It was immensely rewarding to prove the doubters wrong after the recession. But we aim to grow in a sustainable way that retains our culture and integrity. 

You’ve been investing a lot into office spaces when others haven’t, why is that? 

Our investment into an office space while everyone is going more hybrid seems to be backwards, but the goal for us is that people want to come into the office rather than feel they must. Because when they’re in the office, they’re learning more and that’s important to everyone, especially our trainees. We are continually and intentionally creating a nice working environment where individuals get to engage socially while improving their professional skills. 

Our most recent head office move to Farnborough was motivated by quick growth, ambitious goals and creating an even better space for collaboration and client experience. 

HQ internal images

What have you enjoyed most about growing a firm? 

One thing that fills me with great pride when I think about it, is my team’s spirit. I’m proud of our colleagues for believing we could build something special, despite the challenges. There was a sense that we could achieve something others thought impossible, and we did. 

Personally, the early days were the most rewarding. It was exhilarating to rapidly take the firm from a few million to £14 million revenue. Of course, scaling further – to £20 million now – brings new challenges. But we are embracing these as we grow and move forward. 

What’s next for Herrington Carmichael?

If we stay focused on relationships, understanding each client’s business intimately, and delivering value across all our services, the next decade will be even more challenging than the last. We need to be focussed on our evolving client needs and in further diversifying our legal service offerings – becoming experts in those areas. We are hiring more support staff and services so that we can be even better with our client experience. 

I believe that if we continue our current trajectory, being ambitious and making informed decisions, we will continue to see incredible growth. Herrington Carmichael is a far cry from the firm that I joined as a trainee. Our strategy and people have pushed us to achieve incredible things and I hope we can continue to engineer that trust. 

For more information: www.herrington-carmichael.com 

or email [email protected] 


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