Law: Horse power with an urban boost: London standards have enabled one rural firm to flourish and diversify, says Sharon Wallach

CRIPPS HARRIES HALL is an example of a firm that has had the foresight to diversify in the past five or six years from its private client tradition into the commercial arena.

'We have about doubled in size in those years,' Jonathan Denny, the managing partner, says. The firm, which has headquarters in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and three offices in East Sussex, is now one of the largest law practices in the South-east, outside London. And Mr Denny believes that when economic revival does come, the growth on the commercial side will be even greater.

The firm, whose senior partner Christopher Hall spends about a quarter of his working time concentrating on equine law for private clients in the horse world, also branched out in 1988 into financial services, setting up a finance and investment services division. 'It was a logical diversification for us,' Mr Denny says. 'The division grew very fast, and continues to grow. Initially, it fed off the private client side, but increasingly it is feeding off our commercial work.'

The success of the firm's policies is demonstrated by the fact that it has gained half a dozen large commercial and institutional clients who had previously used London firms.

'We offer a London service at out-of-London prices,' Richard Paterson, the marketing manager, explains. 'Institutional and, to some extent, commercial work has the greatest potential for profit. That's what we want, but without dispensing with our private client work.'

One reason the firm has held on through the recession, Mr Denny believes, is that it has continued with its programme of financial investment and training while others have been tightening their belts.

'We are more than half-way to establishing a single computer system,' he says, adding that the firm is close to having a screen on every desk.

Training, he believes, is essential for the successful management of change. At Cripps Harries Hall it is undertaken by two full-time trainers working for an IT manager, one of several relatively recent senior non-legal appointments.

Other such appointments include the marketing manager, Mr Paterson. 'We have always taken marketing to be an absolute essential, and not the luxury some other firms think it is. That is why we made the appointment at a very senior level,' Mr Denny says.

Mr Paterson has, Mr Denny admits, proved something of a revolutionary. 'He brought in things I wasn't sure he would get right; for instance, an appraisal system for partners as well as staff. It's the sort of thing that if it does go wrong, it would have been better not to do in the first place.'

However, Mr Denny has been won over, as have the partners. Formerly, he says, judgements on people were based on anecdotes, often years old. 'That is not being objective,' he says. 'It's important to have consistent standards, and to be even-handed with people.'

Mr Denny was formerly the firm's marketing partner and, according to Mr Paterson, he successfully prepared the ground for the arrival on the scene of a professional marketing manager. 'I found a latent sympathy to marketing within the firm,' Mr Paterson says. 'They were keen to get the benefit of my experience and knowledge. They even had a list of ideas and projects for me.'

Mr Paterson has strong views on the importance of good service in all areas of a firm's work. 'The quality of legal advice is taken for granted. What can lead to satisfaction on the part of the client are aspects of the service delivered by the non-lawyer staff,' he says.

To investigate the firm's successes and failures, he has circulated regular surveys among clients. 'One thing that came to light, for instance, was that we didn't do as well as we could have in answer to the question 'Do you find our correspondence easy to understand?' '

Now, with the help of the director of education and training, Mr Paterson has prepared a paper on writing clear, concise English, which will be implemented as part of a programme to improve the quality of service.

On the private side, the firm serves the top end of the market. 'Although we'd like to, we can't service the lower end profitably,' Mr Paterson says. 'The decider is whether you are prepared to sacrifice quality standards. If not, you can't afford to do legal aid work.'

The clients at the top end of the market include those connected with the horse world who turn for advice to Mr Hall.

Horses have figured large in his life. He commentated for many years at the Royal International Horse Show and the Horse of the Year Show and is a member of the Jockey Club and of the council of the British Horse Society.

Work has naturally arisen from his equestrian involvements, and Mr Hall and his small team provide services to non-professional riders as well as professionals involved in dressage, eventing and show-jumping.

Suggested Topics
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Consultant – Building Management

up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Senior Industrial Energy Consultant

Up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Mechanical Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal