Last month national law firm Shoosmiths announced the launch of a new conveyancing team in Manchester as a result of its growing expansion in the region. John Fitzsimons caught up with partner Lisa Gibbs (LG), who is heading up the team in Manchester, and David Parton (DP), Head of Conveyancing at Shoosmiths, to discuss the move and the firm’s future plans.
Why launch the new Manchester team now?
DP: There are a lot of successful businesses in the thriving Manchester business community, who we already support with their commercial legal needs, but the people driving those successful businesses also want to buy a nice house there and protect their wealth through suitable wealth management. As a firm, we commercially link into a lot of those businesses, so it made sense for us to be able to help them personally too with their private client needs
Over the course of the last 12 months we have been preparing the business case and building a team of people that can collaborate with our commercial colleagues in Manchester in support of their growing client base, and also in Leeds where we launched last Autumn where in combination today we host over 250 partners and staff. Leeds and Manchester are both incredibly vibrant cities, with lots of people coming in to live and work there, and we wanted dedicated teams that can serve those client areas.
Lisa, what made you want to join Shoosmiths?
LG: I’ve known David for many years, and I know that we have the same outlook on the best way to serve conveyancing clients striving for service excellence. We believe in a lawyer-managed service, where there is a single point of contact, one person who looks after the client from instruction to completion, rather than a task-managed service. From both a risk and a service point of view, our approach works well and appears greatly valued by our provider and client base.
When I found out that Shoosmiths were looking to launch a dedicated Manchester team, I was keen to come on board. It’s a great time to be here in Manchester – there are lots of cranes on the horizon!
Manchester is not only a great business hub, but it’s much more affordable than London for developing businesses. There’s lots going on, with great culture and a good quality of life up here.
How important is a local approach to conveyancing?
LG: When acting for clients, it can help to know about the local area and the firms you’re dealing with on the other side.
However we can deal with conveyancing cases across the country in all corners of the United Kingdom including Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the Manchester and the Leeds conveyancing team we are in a position to really offer a local service, demonstrating our expertise in the area and the different aspects that can affect the housing market here.
What’s the market in Manchester like at the moment?
LG: The market is buoyant here. Estate agents don’t have enough properties on their books at the moment, so when a good property does go onto the market it sells very quickly. There’s not a shortage of buyers in the area.
According to Land Registry figures the average property price is around £160,000 and increased by 7% over the last year, so it’s in good shape.
DP: The housing market and in particular the south-east has had a much tougher time over the last 18 months, due to a combination of factors including the expense of properties, higher rate of stamp duty, tax changes that have distracted buy-to-let investors and the short window of time for people to invest in their pensions before the pension cap comes into place.
Manchester is appealing for home buyers and for buy-to-let investment, as you get more for your pound relative to the south-east.
LG: We have seen businesses such as the BBC move north which has created a lot of interest, and other businesses will follow suit. It’s a great city for young professionals to live in, and these moves will only create more demand.
Has the upcoming Election affected the conveyancing market at all?
LG: We saw the market impacted by Brexit and the buy-to-let changes last year, but I don’t think the Election has led to any uncertainty really. We are still seeing good transaction levels.
DP: There is normally far more notice when a General Election is coming; there’s greater uncertainty when there is typically a long lead time, but with the general consensus that the electorate wants stability in the negotiations leading to Brexit, it would seem likely that the government are likely to extend their majority. So for most people, it’s simply business as usual with no sign of the usual Election distraction
What are your plans for the firm going forward?
DP: We have had a busy 12 months, not just with Leeds and Manchester, also opening in Belfast as well and office expansion across our network. For our conveyancing service we are now located in the south (Solent), Midlands (Northampton) and North (Manchester) all of which are currently recruiting legal advisers and support staff, as well as teams in our Edinburgh and Belfast offices. We are unique as a business to be able to operate in so many national locations; I can’t think of any other legal business with that footprint.
The strategy, in summary, is to be famous for the service our clients receive, whether it’s top end corporate work or someone writing their will or moving home.
In early June, we are set to move into new premises in Manchester. The way the floors are laid out is very different, exciting, much more open plan and collaborative than many lawyers are used to when working in Manchester.