Consolidating its central Southampton offices to a new building in Chandler’s Ford, and appointing one of the UK’s youngest law firm managing partners, point to a pivotal period for ambitious Moore Blatch. Tim Wickham finds out more.
Moore Blatch’s new managing partner Ed Whittington is self-assured and took on senior legal responsibilities early in his career. But even he was slightly taken aback when elected as the firm’s new managing partner last September. The 39 year-old was told by the Law Society that he is the youngest managing partner in the UK’s 100 largest firms.
Talent backed by experience
Daunting? Undoubtedly. But Whittington didn’t hesitate in accepting the challenge. He already had a strong track record when he joined Moore Blatch in 2010 from a small firm in Newbury. “My boss was 68 and decided to semi-retire. He asked me to take on his clients, so I came to Moore Blatch with a client book at a relatively young age. It was an extremely difficult period of my career, but also a great platform for me. I still act for many of those clients,” he said.
With a rural family background, one of Whittington’s first initiatives at Moore Blatch was to set up the firm’s rural practice, which he has established as a profitable part of the business. “My approach was to play to my strengths,” he said. “I didn’t think there were many lawyers my age in the region targeting rural professionals who were at a similar stage in their respective careers. The network you nurture in your 30s can stay with you for your whole career.”
Moore Blatch’s former managing partner David Thompson had been doing the job for a dozen years and was ready to return to a partner role. With many younger partners in the firm it was felt the time was right for a new broom. “The decision to appoint me says a lot about the firm’s culture and meritocracy,” said Whittington. “We need to be up to the challenges of the future, particularly in areas like disruptive new technologies that are changing the way legal services are delivered.”
Since his promotion in September 2017, Whittington has been busy refining the firm’s current business goals, rather than creating uncertainty by introducing new ones. The targets are to grow current annual turnover of £27m to £36m by 2020. They include maintaining sustainable profitability and being a great environment to work.
Lymington to London
Moore Blatch moved into its Gateway House office near the M3 in Chandler’s Ford in May 2017. As well as Lymington, where the firm began in 1797, it has offices in Richmond and the City. Around 200 of its 340 staff are now based in Chandler’s Ford.
So, why the London angle? “We wanted to differentiate ourselves in the regional market as a firm with a substantial London presence with London clients,” said Whittington.
Moore Blatch acquired a clinical negligence team at a Richmond-based firm and last year added a conveyancing and private client practice, resulting in a 70-strong office. Together with its offices in the City this gives the firm a footprint from the City to west London’s wealthier suburbs.
“Our City office is big enough for us to have a sustainable staff culture and we meet London clients there. It’s a good selling point that we can carry out much of the work in Richmond and the south coast at a lower cost compared with City rates,” said Whittington.
The journey continues
A key question Whittington knows he has to answer if the firm is to achieve its business goals is not just the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’. “I’m answering that with the input of everyone in the firm. Growing in size creates opportunities for people. Having a great working environment means people feel their work and commitment is valued. If we’re open with staff and they understand our business decisions, then we’ll all feel we’re on the same journey together. A great team culture helps to attract and retain the best people, which in turn helps to retain and attract the best clients.”