Law firm Berwins celebrates 30 years of growth

Paul BerwinPaul Berwin
Paul Berwin
YORKSHIRE law firm Berwins is marking a significant milestone with the 30th anniversary of its founding.

The Harrogate company has grown rapidly since starting in 1986, and is now at the cutting edge of the internet age by developing a national and international reputation in digital law.

Founder Paul Berwin said that the specialism came about by chance, alongside the company’s other strengths in property, family, private client and business law.

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When he started Berwins, conveyancing made up more than three-quarters of its business, and that led into the digital arena. 

Its first serious commercial work came in the mid 1990s when a conveyancing client asked for a shareholders agreement for a new software business.

Mr Berwin said: “That business then needed a software licence, and they asked me to learn about those, and from there my expertise and interest grew.”

That business was eventually bought by San Francisco-based Trimble Navigation – now Berwins’ biggest client.

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The rapid growth in Yorkshire’s digital sector prompted Berwins to open a second office, in the centre of Leeds, in September 2013.

The connection to Leeds was a historic one – Mr Berwin’s great-grandfather had founded the family tailoring firm Berwin and Berwin in the city.

Mr Berwin, who was heavily involved in Leeds Digital Festival this year, is passionate not just about the firm’s home town of Harrogate, but also about promoting Leeds and the surrounding area for its digital excellence.

He said: “The Leeds City Region encompasses both our offices and is a dynamic commercial area that’s growing in confidence and is ready to promote itself just as vigorously as other established tech centres.

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“As a firm we already have a well established commercial base in Harrogate where the business community is very strong and growing.

“Our expansion into Leeds has increased our footprint within the Leeds City Region and is enabling us to build our reputation and our team.”

The past 30 years have seen a lot of changes in the legal sector. The computer age has allowed Berwins and many others to shift from traditional offices with typewriters and filing cabinets to completely paperless workplaces.

Berwins says it has prospered by focusing on its five specialisms.

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Mr Berwin said: “A few years ago we made a conscious decision to only do the things we can really do well and this created a mind-shift. It resulted in us developing five niche teams – property, life, family, business and digital.

“The business has also had a generational shift as it has grown up with family solicitor Sarah Smith taking over as managing director a few years ago, freeing me up to grow the business and digital side.

“Berwins is a firm that was started by me and bears my name but is a strong, growing business in its own right – it’s not in any sense an extension of me.”

Community involvement matters to Mr Berwin. Over the past 15 years, he has personally raised more than £40,000 for charity and has inspired his 50-strong team to get involved in sport as well.

Last year, Berwins became the sponsor of the Harrogate International Festivals’ Salon North series, which brings expert speakers together.

Mr Berwin said: “We’ve always been a values-based business.”