'We can provide the quality of service from under one roof' - Travers holds firm on one-site strategy

Looking forward to his second term as managing partner of City thoroughbred Travers Smith, David Patient says his focus is on “the holy trinity of people, space and technology”.

While these issues face every law firm leader, Travers’ one-site approach means that many of the remedies available to the competition – hundreds of paralegals in Manchester, for example – are off the table.

“So many firms have looked at alternative delivery options such as support centres in South Africa, Mumbai, Poland, Belfast or Manchester,” says Patient, who was recently reappointed for a second three-year term at the helm of the firm. “But we think we can provide the quality of service from under one roof, and culturally it’s very important for us to be one firm in that way,” he says.

Patient argues that the firm can retain its competitive edge and profitability without changing its independent strategy.

“Our approach is to look at how we provide these services more efficiently in other ways, such as using technology efficiently, automation, making sure the right people are doing the right jobs, offering our people flexible and agile working arrangements, and relying on alumni,” he says.

The firm has increased the number of paralegals it uses, but not at the expense of trainees, which it has held at around 25 a year. The firm is even looking to marginally increase that number, in contrast to the magic circle, which have slashed their trainee intakes in recent years.

“The competitiveness in the market to recruit the top people is intense, so when you recruit people you have to ensure that they buy into what you are doing, as well as your values,” he says.

On the issues of space, Patient says that the firm is happy with its current Snow Street headquarters, which has undergone a recent refurbishment, but says future needs are harder to predict.

“The big question is: will you need the same amount of space you have today in five or 10 years’ time?” he says.

Patient says the number of people recording time at the firm has grown very slightly over the last 12 months as the firm seeks to use technology to make its services more efficient.

However, he says that it “is hard to crystal ball gaze as to what your requirements will be halfway through a lease”.

“But we do have flexibility about what we can do around some of the space we occupy. If we want more space or less space, we can have that – we have built that flexibility into our arrangements,” he says.

The third element of Patient’s “holy trinity”, technology, is something the firm is examining in the light of how “it will change the way in which people work, their roles and perhaps ultimately the number of people at the firm”.

The firm has been trialling artificial intelligence technology from rival providers RAVN and Kira over the last couple of years, but he says “the jury is still out” on which technology the firm will  decide to adopt.

Travers enjoyed a successful 2016-17, with revenue rising 4% to £125m, and Patient says his goal for the current year is to “maintain the momentum and confidence we have got in our business and our model”.

“We are focused on making working in a City law firm enjoyable, with high-quality people doing high-quality work for high-quality clients and in an environment where it is fun,” he says.