Niche and nimble – a new breed of law firm 

January 8, 2018

Paul McGowan, founder and managing partner of Collingwood Legal, a specialist HR and employment law firm based in Newcastle, reflects on a successful 2017 and looks forward to his firm’s plans this year

In the North East region, clients are served by an excellent mix of law firms with different areas of specialism to help serve clients’ and customers’ needs.

In recent years, there has been a huge shake up in the legal market throughout the region with new national firms taking over regional practices, international mergers and even an increase in ‘virtual’ law firms.

The way that the market has developed has been fascinating as clients are becoming more and more sophisticated in their purchase of our services. For all professionals, there is so much information freely available and ‘out there’ already on the internet that to truly differentiate your service and expertise we, as lawyers, have had to develop, too.

A model of particular interest in the legal sector is the ‘boutique’ firm. As the founder and managing partner of Collingwood Legal, a niche boutique employment law firm in Newcastle, we have noticed a raft of niche law firms set up in the region since we established in 2010.

The benefit of the boutique firm is that it focuses on one single area of law and then looks to do it really well.

For example, at Collingwood Legal, all of our lawyers are experts in employment law. This means we are able to deliver excellent value for clients by providing a quick turn around when advice is needed. It

also means that we are able to provide a genuine expert view and application to customers’ needs on the most complex of queries, rather than a simple quoting of the law.

Like other specialist firms, we operate a lean business model and make the best use of technology. The nimble business structure of a boutique firm helps us keep on top of our game. We find that our clients choose us because of the benefits of the niche firm model as they know they are getting access to quality advice at value for money rates but also the personal touch is not forgotten and effective business relationships are crucial.

We like to think that Collingwood Legal’s position as a specialist law firm was summarised nicely by the independent legal guide Chambers and Partners, which describe us as ‘big enough to battle small enough to care…’.

A survey on independent law firms reports huge optimism in the boutique sector with 87 per cent of respondents saying that they are in good health, 83 per cent feeling confident about the future, and a significant majority seeing providing a bespoke service as key to their success. I agree.

2017 was a fantastic year for Collingwood Legal. We retained our strong position in the field of employment law in the North East region (Legal 500 published September 2017), won the Law Firm of the Year award for small firms at the Northern Law Awards and also welcomed our 1000th client – something that I am extremely proud of and that is testament to the reputation of our team.

2018 is already looking positive and it will be interesting to see whether the shifts in the law firm model continue to develop in the year to come.

Collingwood Legal

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