About Wragge & Co LLP
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 matters.
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 Birmingham.
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 appointed.
Mergers, moves and the Middle East
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 aplenty
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.
55 Colmore Row
Birmingham B3 2AS
Phone: +44 (0)870 903 1000
Managing Partner: Ian Metcalfe
London, United Kingdom
Birmingham, United Kingdom