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Martin Hoare, managing partner of Gorvins, talks to Jean-Yves Gilg about interweaving business areas, stealing a march on larger rivals, and how comparison shopping will accelerate the race to the bottom for legal services.

Author – Jean-Yves Gilg, editor-in-chief at SolicitorsJournal

Manchester-born Martin Hoare was six when the family upped sticks to head south but “for some strange reason” he’s always regarded himself as a Mancunian, he says. So when an opportunity came up to move back to the North West, the commercial property specialist didn’t need to think too long about it.

After completing his LPC in Chester, Hoare trained with Eversheds in London. He returned to the firm’s Manchester office after a stint at Halliwells and Addleshaw Goddard. But in 2010, the desire to do his own thing led him to move sideways and join Stockport-based Gorvins. A traditional full-service firm, Gorvins was starting to develop its business client portfolio. Last December, Hoare was appointed managing partner of the 110-strong firm, succeeding head of residential property Lorraine Lockie.

Boring property work

The joke in the Hoare household is that his wife, also a solicitor, does intellectual property work while he just does boring property work. Life at Gorvins, however, has been anything but boring for Hoare. The 43-year-old built up his own property practice almost from scratch. “The whole purpose of me joining was to go out, find new work, and grow the practice,” he says. “There’s nothing terribly scientific about it: you get yourself so busy that you can’t move, then you get someone else in. There’s an element of trial and error. We got some great people in, got them busy, and we’re now into the next phase.”

The firm now has 15 partners, four of whom are equity, and about 40 fee earners. Revenue is still split roughly 50/50 between private client work and commercial client, and the plan is to make the two sides of the business more interwoven. “They complement each other well,” Hoare remarks. “Having a balanced portfolio with a spread of work is a key plank in our strategy. You need to tailor your offering based on what’s going on in the market but having that full service is essential.”

The firm has a diverse client base but the plan is to grow the owner-managed businesses market, with a “sweet spot” of clients budgeting to spend between £10,000 and £100,000 a year on legal fees.

Teaching clients how to use lawyers can be expensive and time consuming for firms such as Gorvins, many of which are targeting the family-owned business market. These clients have a need for repeat advice across both commercial and private client, and they know how to make the best of their lawyers. “We’re not prescriptive, but these are relatively sophisticated clients in terms of legal purchase,” Hoare says. “They don’t need to be taught how to use a lawyer. Both for clients and for us, it makes sense to have a decent relationship going. This only happens if there is regular interaction.”….