Law firm sets sights on office expansion

A YORKSHIRE-based law firm has launched a criminal practice division which plans to open an office in every major northern city.

Clarion Solicitors has created a new division – Clarion Advocates – which will include its Leeds-based criminal and fraud services team and a new office in Liverpool.

Clarion Advocates has a team of seven criminal lawyers based in Leeds, along with five staff at its new Liverpool office, which will be headed by criminal lawyer Tony Murphy. The division will be led by Rob Rode, who established Clarion's Yorkshire-based criminal practice.

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Clarion Advocates offers a range of business crime and regulatory services, and also advises businesses about regulatory compliance to avoid prosecutions.

Mark Burns, the managing partner of Clarion, said: "Our Leeds criminal practice, headed by Rob Rode, has gone from strength to strength, handling numerous high-profile and complex cases all over the country.

"The launch of this specialist division will enable us to build on our success, further expanding the team both here and at our first office outside Yorkshire."

Mr Burns said there were long-term plans to open Clarion Advocates offices in major northern cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Hull.

"In the next couple of years, we would hope to have a couple of cities under our belt,'' Mr Burns added.

"We had always planned to grow the criminal practice to other cities. It's part of Clarion's heritage to be very well regarded in the criminal legal services market place."

Mr Rode, partner advocate at Clarion, said: "Our strong track record, together with an experienced and growing team of specialist criminal lawyers, will enable us to continue to offer cost-effective, expert criminal advice in Yorkshire and the North-West."

Clarion has nine specialist service areas: Clarion Advocates, corporate and commercial; corporate recovery; private client; employment; property; dispute resolution; and family and debt recovery. The firm has 98 staff, including 65 fee earners and 17 partners.

Clarion was created in February 2007, when one of Yorkshire's best-known lawyers, Peter McCormick, sold his Leeds-based practice to a team of lawyers at the firm.

Mr McCormick and his two longest-serving partners transferred to the firm's Harrogate practice, which has continued to trade, and grow, as McCormicks.

Mr Burns said Clarion was doing well, and its performance was at or around its target levels.

He expects Clarion's turnover to be 7m this year, up from 6.2m the year before.

According to Mr Burns, the overall market place is quite mixed, with property "still pretty sticky" despite signs that work is starting to pick up.

He said the corporate recovery market was also quite slow, with fewer than expected business failures.

Mr Burns said this might be partly due to the banks and Inland Revenue taking a more benign attitude to people with cash problems.

He added: "Banks owned by the Government are under pressure to allow businesses

with debts to keep trading, which might explain why unemployment hasn't risen more quickly."

The criminal practice is expected to make turnover of 1.5m this year, compared with 1m last year.

Mr Burns added: "Growth in corporate and commercial has played a key role in Clarion's success over the last year or so. In particular, there have been a number of big-name wins with clients leaving the big six and looking for mid-tier firms like Clarion, which offer better value for money."

He said he was also looking for growth in the litigation, family law, banking and private client teams.

MAN AT THE HELM

The Clarion Advocates office in Liverpool will be led by Tony Murphy, one of the North-West's best-known lawyers.

Criminal lawyer Mr Murphy is a former equity partner in David Phillips and Partners. He has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including Operation Undercoat, which was linked to alleged drugs offences.

He is a duty solicitor and supervisor on the Legal Services Commission's Very High Cost Criminal cases scheme.