Size doesn’t matter: How a small firm built a global brand

Paul Marmor is head of litigation and international services at Sherrards Solicitors. Since he joined in May 2004, the firm has more than doubled in size and now comprises nearly 50 fee earners and 30 support staff. Much of this growth has been fuelled by a business development strategy to pursue international work. The awards Sherrards has won in the past two years indicate just how successful this strategy has been: it was was named Litigation Law Firm of the Year in England by Corporate INTL in 2014, plus Most Trusted Global Litigation Law Firm of the Year in the 2014 and 2015 ACQ Global Awards. Sherrards also won a prestigious Highly Commended accolade for its international work in the Law Society Excellence Awards 2013.

Here Paul explains the four steps that led to the success…


1) Give staff high levels of autonomy with accountability

We give every member of our team – senior and junior – breathing space and autonomy. Our people flourish in a relaxed, mature environment where they operate without micro-management. However, alongside this approach, staff are also aware of their specific roles and work to targets.

We encourage the team to work on business development outside their core 9-5 roles and invite them to build relationships in areas they genuinely enjoy. For example, our head of property litigation Rachael McConaghie has gravitated towards The Association of Women in Property, joined the committee and made it her thing. This has allowed her to develop strong social and personal relationships, but also create powerful business and professional leads.

We strive to give team members the space to get out there and follow their passions within the confines of being litigation lawyers. As a result we’re winning work from many sources.


2) Become famous in your specialist area

At the root of our success is our decision in 2006 to become a specialist international law firm. From there we deliberately set about building an international profile to stand out and enter a different territory to our competition. The key question was: How can we distinguish ourselves from non-descript firms who all have good people, good clients and similar messages?

Our conclusion was to embark on a journey to become the go-to international law firm. We believe we’ve made good progress because that’s exactly how the UK Trade & Investment website describes Sherrards today: “They are the ‘go to’ firm for clients requiring services on a wide range of commercial law and have moulded their services for the international market as a result of growing overseas demand.”


3) Establish credibility via affiliations

After deciding to become a specialist international law firm, we joined a global alliance of law and accountancy firms called The Alliott Group and encouraged the team to get involved. I became deputy chair of the legal side of the Group and was later elected chair – a position I still hold – which put me at the heart of proceedings. That proved a good platform from which to meet other law firms across the world, develop relationships and create connectivity.

From there we got close to the Law Society International Division, an organisation that promotes the interests of British firms across the world and helps to build networks and alliances between firms. This opened more doors and led to a close relationship with UK Trade & Investment (UK TI). Through that government body we spent a lot of time working with British businesses overseas and played a leading role in creating a brochure called Export for Growth, which built our credibility as an international law firm.

Due to our Alliott Group and UK TI work, we became a chosen supplier of intelligence to the World Bank Doing Business Project. This Project grades countries according to how easy it is to do business in each one, and we help by supplying information on the UK litigation market. Our involvement allows us to leverage PR from our association with such a prestigious body.


4) Achieve industry recognition through awards

A big turning point for Sherrards was winning a Highly Commended accolade for our international work in the Law Society Excellence Awards 2013. That was hugely significant because it doesn’t get much more important professionally than the people on that judging panel. Also, in both 2014 and 2015 we were named Litigation Law Firm of the Year in England, plus Most Trusted Litigation Law Firm of the Year in the ACQ Global Awards. In addition, we picked up the 2014 Litigation Law Firm of the Year in England award from Corporate INTL.

These awards have solidified our reputation as an international specialist and allowed us to win more business.

We are a niche practice at Sherrards but we punch above our weight and are now a recognised, award winning global firm. We achieved this by first empowering our staff and then positioning ourselves as an international law firm. Next we used affiliations with appropriate bodies to grow our credibility, and finally won awards to cement our reputation.