Jeremy Shulman, the founder of one Yorkshire’s biggest law firms, is to stand down after 37 years with the practice.
Mr Shulman set up the business which bears his name in Leeds in 1981, and in that time has helped grow it from a small office on York Place to a firm which last year turned over £14.85m and serves clients across the globe.
Initially practising with just himself, a secretary and a part-time accountant, Shulmans today employs more than 220 people and is ranked as one of the top 200 law firms in the country.
Mr Shulman will officially retire from the practise at the end of the month but will continue to serve as an employment judge.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Shulman said: “Do you know what makes me very proud? We have got 220 people in here and they have all got the same ethic.
“That’s a remarkable thing, because that is a difficult thing to sustain as you grow, but they definitely all have that approach.”
Mr Shulman stood down as the firm’s chairman four years ago and has spent the last few years serving as a partner, doing what he enjoys best.
“My love has been around serving clients,” he said.
“When I gave up as chairman of Shulmans, which was a very good decision, I went back to the coal face and they really have been enjoyable the last four or five years.”
Mr Shulman, whose grandfather and father were both active in Leeds business, studied at the University of Birmingham. He completed his training contract before moving to Fingret Paterson where he became a partner at 24 and an equity partner at 26.
However it was upon reaching the age of 29, that he decided to go it alone.
“It wasn’t a plan actually,” he says. “I was the sole practitioner for four years but ended up with a team of 10.”
He describes the arrival of Tim Halstead, now managing partner, and Richard Wadkin, now partner, as a pivotal moment for the firm.
“Tim was a property lawyer, Richard was a dispute resolution lawyer and I was a commercial lawyer – that was really the platform for the firm to be able to grow.”
The hardest period for the firm came during the economic downturn in 2008 but the decisions made during that period to keep aspects of the business operational would ultimately lead the firm on to its finest hour.
“We thought very carefully about where we were and where we wanted to get to. That pain was a springboard to where we are now. The other thing was the move here (the move to Wellington Place four years ago).”
As a legal practitioner of several decades, Mr Shulman has seen the economy of Leeds transform, with the city now second only to London when it comes to legal work.
“Leeds has grown as a city tremendously. I think there is quite a way to go with the city. We would all like to see a decent conference centre and a successful football club. There is some good leadership here; I think Judith Blake and Tom Riordan are a good partnership. If we can all work hard together we can really make it better. There has been some very good work, some very good people within the profession. I will obviously have sentimental attachment to the firm and I leave a lot of friends here.”
However, he adds that he thinks setting out like he did today would be tough.
“You couldn’t do what I did in 1981, you can’t be a generalist, you have to be a specialist.”
Outside the firm
During his long and successful career Jeremy Shulman has served in a number of roles outside the firm.
He was a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, spent 30 years with the Law Society and was national chairman for Young Solicitors Group of England and Wales.
Mr Shulman is a former president of Leeds Law Society and has also served as president of Interlegal organisation to which he ascribes much of his firm’s success.
“We have got members globally, they send work out to us and we send work back to them, partially through Interlegal but it has become more than that. We can provide full international service. I have international colleagus in this firm who have got tremendous contacts.”