Walker Morris is among few law firms that have built a national
reputation from a single site outside London. Though it prides
itself on the staff cohesion that comes from having a single
office, Walker Morris is by no means a purely local firm. More than
70 per cent of the firm's clients are from outside of Yorkshire,
the firm regularly leads cross-border teams and it has a strong
Chinese trade practice.
Forward into the new millennium
Walker Morris traces its roots to the 1880s, but the early part
of the 21st century has been of particular significance, with the
firm more than quadrupling its size in a decade. The rapid growth
was not without some setbacks, though. In 2006, the firm was forced
to sell its volume business, and in 2007 it dissolved its
matrimonial practice. Like other law firms, Walker Morris had to
make a handful of redundancies during the recession of 2008-09, but
Peter Smart, the firm's chairman at the time, opted to sacrifice
partner profits in order to prevent more jobs from being lost.
Walker Morris has since then begun to shift some of its focus to
insolvency, helping it to recover and press forward.
One box, but outside it
The single office structure is not an accident; Walker Morris is
intentionally non-conformist. The firm actively works to create a
friendly environment, and encourages its lawyers to apply their
skills creatively. While, like every other firm of its size, Walker
Morris is divided into specialised disciplines, it does not
pigeonhole fee earners into narrow niche practices. Instead the
firms prefers a staff of generalists within their discipline,
allowing them to provide a broader prospective than lawyers who
have become too specialised.
As if to put a final non-conformist stamp on the firm culture,
Walker Morris has sponsored an exhibit at the Leeds Art Gallery,
featuring the work of Young British Artist Damien Hirst, noted for
his unusual practice of turning dead animals into art.
And now for a word from our sponsors
In August 2011, Walker Morris advised Amscreen in its
acquisition of the marketing and sales operations of Digicom, a
digital advertising firm with which it has worked for 10 years.
Digicom had been Amscreen's exclusive sales partner for its network
of 3,000 screens across the country. The screens serve as easily
modified digital billboards, broadcasting advertisements to an
estimated 25 million people a week. As a result of the deal, all of
Digicom's 15 staff became employees of Amscreen.
I feel like Chicken Tonight
Walker Morris acted for Leeds-based food producer Symington's in
a deal with Unilever worth an estimated £30-40 million. In August
2011, Symington's acquired from Unilever the UK and Irish rights to
convenience food brands Ragu and Chicken Tonight, adding to a
portfolio that already includes Campbell's, Granose, Mug Shot and
Oat Burst. The acquisition marks Symington's first foray into the
wet sauces market and is expected to increase the company's
turnover by 25 per cent.
Lose less, Whinmoor
In December 2009, the Leeds City Council rejected a plan by
Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey for the building of a residential
community in Whinmoor, on the north eastern edge of Leeds. The
developers then sought the help of Walker Morris, and after a
planning period that spanned several months, the Communities
Secretary overturned the initial ruling and gave the project the
green light in May 2011. When complete, the new community will have
between 370 and 400 homes, as well as a number of community
buildings and retail spaces to service the residence.
Teamwork of power
In February 2011, Walker Morris won an appointment to the
National Grid's Legal Panel for Energy and Regulation. The new
panel comprises six law firms, down from its previous size of
eight. The reduction is part of the National Grid's overall plan to
reduce its legal fees, which will also include fixed-price billing
and an outside consultant to produce competitive rate cards. Prior
to the appointment, Walker Morris provided advice to the Grid on
its Liquefied Natural Gas importation and storage business.