“We are constantly looking out for local talent. Like every forward-thinking business, we want to retain those finishing their studies in our region and we also want to give those not studying for a degree an opportunity,” Mr Des Mannion, Chief Executive, Wilkin Chapman LLP

The largest law firm across the Humber and Lincolnshire, Wilkin Chapman solicitors has a local and national focus that has seen it shine as one of the region’s major success stories.

With an annual turn-over now exceeding £22-million and with 400 partners and staff, its client base extends way beyond regional boundaries with experts in all areas of the legal profession. So successful is its blend of national and regional growth, that in 2017 it was once again listed as one of the UK’s Top 200 law firms according to legal publication ‘The Lawyer’, ranking the firm at 106, based on turnover.

While achieving success on a national level, the firm has remained committed to the Humber and wider Lincolnshire region where it has a policy of attracting and retaining local talent, an ethos that has stayed true since the firm’s foundation in 1990. Its regional acquisitions over the years has allowed it to further expand its local footprint and commitment to the area and its people – with offices now in Grimsby, Lincoln, Beverley, Louth, Horncastle, Alford and Sheffield.

Strong leadership over those years has been supported by a growing number of Partners – again evidence of the firm’s commitment to successful careers for its team members. Today Wilkin Chapman is led by Chief Executive, Des Mannion who was attracted to the firm and the north of the UK from London, where he was an operations director at world accountancy leading firm Grant Thornton.

He explains his reason for the move: “The CEO role at Wilkin Chapman appealed because I was at a stage in my career whereby I wanted to do something different, something challenging.  This region is full of opportunity and the passion from local business leaders to drive the economy is infectious.” 

Responding to change and keeping one step ahead the competition

The continuing success of Wilkin Chapman is born out of its ability to retain true leaders in their professional fields who are committed to the specialism and to give a first class service to their clients, while being responsive to shifts in an ever-changing marketplace.

Across the Humber, we see how the food processing industry remains strong. Meanwhile the emergence of renewables is well documented and our engineering heartland is ever-growing, along with the SME sector as well as the larger enterprises. Tourism is also a burgeoning sector especially in our market towns and within the rural landscapes that encompass the coastline and both the East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds. Agriculture is also a hugely important sector within the firms geographical reach and one that it has a firm footprint in, being the NFU legal panel member for the Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire region.

Wilkin Chapman has teams of specialist legal staff with a vast amount of knowledge in all these areas – with a true focus on the sectors that really matter including Ports and Logistics, Renewables, Tourism, Agriculture and Housing. While of course not forgetting the areas of private client and family law, which remain strong.

Reflecting on the firm’s success, Mr Mannion added: “Lawyers are recognising they are selling a legal service and have to offer exceptional customer service to clients.  Although the industry is more competitive, we have more freedom and autonomy to look at alternative business structures.  There have been many ‘strategic’ mergers and the legal industry within the UK is quite fragmented with over 10,000 suppliers.  Various forces are driving consolidation in the UK legal services market including regulatory change.”

Support in the local economy is critical for business success

While the focus is very much on the future, the teams at Wilkin Chapman have remained strongly aligned to the areas and locations on which the firm has achieved its success. For example, its new £7-million headquarters in Grimsby’s Cartergate sits at the heart of the town centre. A unique partnership with North East Lincolnshire Council, its development signalled the start of major regeneration plans for that area of the town.

Mr Mannion said: “Grimsby has people with passion to succeed; they want to build a better future for the next generation. With the demise of the fishing industry, the town needed something to replace this loss and provide opportunities for the community, in which the town has managed to succeed.”

Indeed, support within the local community has been critical in Wilkin Chapman’s success and was key to securing its future within the region.

 “We have a very proactive local authority here and two focussed LEPs. There is a genuine willingness in the region to drive inward investment forward and an assurance that funding is available to those who need it. We also have a good multi-modal infrastructure with Humberside Airport on our doorstep; The Humber and Lincolnshire really are open for business,” added Mr Mannion.

Retaining talent to drive success

Wilkin Chapman is a firm believer that the ability to attract, support and grow local talent is a key factor to the success of the whole region.

With a staff attrition rate of just 2.3 percent during 2016/2017, it is clear the policies and practices are in place within the firm to ensure it stays true to its word. Further to that, the intake of trainee solicitors continues to grow year-on-year.

 “We are constantly looking out for local talent. Like every forward-thinking business, we want to retain those finishing their studies in our region and we also want to give those not studying for a degree an opportunity,” explained Mr Mannion.   

The firm has a robust and structured training and development programme, ensuring staff are equipped with the skills and expertise to meet the commercial and industrial challenges ahead. By employing and training a new generation of young lawyers and skilled professionals, the firm is helping to shape the future of the legal profession while retaining talent.    

Operating in a traditionally male-dominated sector, Wilkin Chapman is unique in that a third (15, in fact) of its partners are women, of which six are departmental heads. This is proof of its open and diverse environment, with employees working towards a clear vision and having an opportunity to shape company strategy.

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