Not every firm is able to count Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens among its former clients. Farrer & Co’s history stretches back over 300 years, so you can be sure they know what they’re doing. The firm is well known for balancing its advice to private clients and its work in corporate, employment and media sectors—a skill which has made the firm of particular attraction to high-net-worth individuals, not least among them entrepreneurs like Sir Keith Mills, founder of the Air Miles programme in the UK who helped orchestrate London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.
We go way, way back
Farrer & Co’s origins date back to the 17th century and, while the exact date of its inception remains lost to time, the earliest definite date associated with the firm is 1701. In this year the remarkably named Tempest Slinger left Lancashire to join his uncle and namesake in London. Tempest Slinger junior began practising as a solicitor at Gray’s Inn, setting up an office at 5 New Square. Slinger practised law here until his death in 1728, at which time his friend Robert Atkinson took over the practice until his own death. Until 1769 the practice was handled by the Coulthurst brothers, who managed to pick up the Crown Estate Commissioner, Sir John Pitt, as a client, beginning the firm’s association with London’s elite.
The first association of the Farrer family with the Coulthursts’ firm came in 1759, when Yorkshire solicitor and friend of the Coulthursts, James Farrer, sent his son Oliver to join their practice as an articled clerk. In 1769, Oliver became sole partner, and since that year the firm has always had a Farrer in its name.
Maintaining a personal touch
The firm’s early clients included members of the House of Lords, town corporations and the aristocracy, with a host of notable clients including Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens—who sought the firm’s aid in a number of libel cases—and banker Thomas Coutts, whose firm remains a client of Farrer & Co to this day.
One constant throughout the firm’s long history has been its attitude toward client service. Farrer & Co is proud to be among the few London firms that provides the old-style personal touch, where lawyers handle all aspects of a family’s business. The firm’s private client services include family matters, estates and private property, tax planning, and art and heritage issues. Among recent matters, Farrer & Co acted for the Duke of Sutherland in his sale of Titian’s painting “Diana and Actaeon” to the National Gallery. The firm also has a recognised media practice, and its work for commercial and institutional clients include matters as diverse as complex banking regulations, employment and pensions, and both contentious and noncontentious regulatory work.
Moving with the times
When Farrers elected four new partners in April 2008, two joined the employment team, one joined corporate and one entered the charity and communities practice. Speaking to The Lawyer, Farrer’s senior partner, James Furber, noted that the employment and corporate practices were both “buzzing”. “In billing terms we’re doing 10 times more deals, and we’re not as affected by the slowdown in the banking sector because of our practice areas,” he noted. The boost to the corporate team followed the addition of two new senior lawyers to the practice in 2007, who joined the competition and banking divisions respectively, and came as part of a concerted effort by the firm to expand its corporate practice. In April 2009, the firm announced that Nigel Palmer would join the media group as a partner from SJ Berwin. Palmer’s experience in film financing, for which he has advised both financiers and production companies, will augment the firm’s media and banking services.
Since 2006, Farrer’s commercial property team has also seen expansion in its workload, and in January 2008 it welcomed Carrie Faller as a new partner. The team’s areas of expertise include fund work, development work and tending to the occupational needs of Farrer’s corporate client base. On the charity side, the firm advised on the April 2009 multi-jurisdictional merger of Help the Aged with the UK-based affiliations of Age Concern to create four new national organisations—Age UK, Age Scotland, Age NI and Age Cymru—representing the largest UK charity for older people.
66 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London WC2A 3LH
Phone: +44 (0)20 7242 2022
Employer Type: Private
Senior partner: James Furber
Total No. Attorneys 2009: 180