One of the strongest firms in the Midlands, Wragges' legal work
has a global reach. The firm boasts 27 FTSE 100 companies, 22
FTSE 250s and a great number of public and private clients on its
client roster. While held up by many as the benchmark of a
large-scale regional practice, the firm has been making inroads
into London in recent years. Wragges has an extremely broad
practice, divided into real estate, human resources, dispute
resolution, finance, projects and technology, and corporate groups,
but it is best known for its work in property and outsourcing
Back in the day
Wragge & Co dates back to 1834, when George Paulson Wragge went
into partnership with Clement Ingleby and set up offices in what
was then Birmingham's most prestigious business quarter. Some
of the firm's earliest clients included Lloyds Banking Co, The
Birmingham Canal Navigations and the Bishop of Worcester. The
firm began expanding in earnest after the First World War and
merged with Gem & Co in 1935, then with Crockford & Son in
1942. In terms of bringing in technology, the firm was ahead
of the game, being among the first telephone subscribers in
Between 1991 and 2002, under Senior Partner John Crabtree, the
firm's turnover grew by an astonishing 650 per cent, from £12
million to £77.8 million. This exponential growth was what
catapulted Wragges from its position as a provincial firm into a
significant national player.
Looking after its own
Wragges has developed a reputation for looking after its
staff. It remains the only law firm to have appeared in the
Financial Times "50 Best
Workplaces in the UK" since the list began in 2001. While the
firm entered into redundancy consultations with 30 fee earners in
October 2008, it made sure to do its best to support them. In
December, 24 jobs were cut, largely from the real estate
team. The firm proposed paying three times the statutory
minimum to the affected staff and made efforts to secure new jobs
for them. A firm in Dubai reportedly expressed interest in
taking on some of the departing lawyers. In June 2009, after
recording a 17 per cent drop in turnover for 2008-2009, the firm
launched another round of redundancy consultations, with 85
employees reportedly at risk.
Other recessionary fallout is reflected in the firm's 2009 partner
promotions. In May, the firm made up just one lawyer to its
partnership-compared to the previous year, when nine partners were
Mergers, moves and the Middle
In early 2009, Wragges was on the lookout for potential merger
targets in the City, where it sought to invest £20 million of
reserved cash. The firm is particularly looking to develop
its offering in City-related practice areas like private equity,
financial services, property finance and property funds.
Looking further afield than the Square Mile, Wragges has also
created a Middle East team with a view to setting up a new office
in the region before the end of the year, with possible sites
including Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai. Nicola Mumford, head of
Wragges' London office, will oversee the office strategy in the
Middle East. The firm's work in the region is,
unsurprisingly, centred around projects and energy matters, and its
clients include sovereign wealth funds and government bodies.
The plans come hard on the heels of new office openings in China in
2007 and Germany in 2008.
A little closer to home, Wragges has made plans to move to new
premises in Birmingham in 2012. The relocation would bring
the firm's three Birmingham offices together in Two Snowhill-part
of a £500 million site currently under development-of which Wragges
would occupy 11 floors.
Deals and honours
Wragges acted on a number of deals in the first part of 2009.
In January, the firm conducted its first large-scale corporate
instruction for eyewear company De Rigo in the formation of the
UK's second-largest optical chain. The deal merges the De
Rigo-owned retailer Dollond & Aitchison with Alliance Boots'
eyewear business, Boots Opticians. Due to complete in the
second quarter of 2009, the new business will boast close to 690
branches and employ more than 5,000 people.
On the litigation side, Wragges' intellectual property team won a
landmark victory for its client, Premium Aircraft Design, in a
dispute over patent and unregistered design rights-a particularly
complex area of IP law. A member of the Premium Aircraft
Interiors Group, Contour, was sued by Virgin Atlantic for patent
infringement and unregistered UK design rights infringement
involving a number of aircraft seat design features. After a
three-week trial, it was ruled that Premium had not infringed the
patent in suit or copied any design rights.
In addition to Wragges' regular appearance on best workplace
rankings, the firm has been honoured for its innovative use of
technology. In late January 2009, Wragges was named the "most
client-focused law firm of the year" at the Legal Technology
Awards. The award recognised the firm's use of technology in
its service to clients, particularly its bespoke IT consultancy
service. The same consultancy service had picked up an
information technology innovation award back in 2007, in the first
survey of legal innovation conducted by the Financial Times.