Paul McGowan, the Founder and Managing Partner at Newcastle based Collingwood Legal, reflects on the firms 10th anniversary.
Who are Collingwood Legal?
We are a team of specialist employment lawyers based in Newcastle. We work with businesses of all sizes in and out of the region including owner manged businesses, charities, universities and colleges and senior executives. All of our team are employment law experts and we are passionate about what we do.
Why did you decide to set up a specialist employment law firm?
I set up Collingwood Legal in 2010 having risen through the ranks at a large full-service law firm. I felt that there was a different and better way to deliver employment law support services to clients. At that time, the economy was still suffering from the effects of the 2008 credit crunch and I felt that stepping away from the status quo was needed to reflect on the legal business model to find a way of working that was genuinely centred on putting client needs and service delivery first.
What sets Collingwood Legal apart from other law firms?
Client care. We consistently deliver excellent results for our clients but maintain a personal touch, whether we are acting for a large corporate entity, a small business or an individual. Much of the dispute work that we carry out for clients is sensitive and can, understandably, be an unwelcome distraction. Its important that we recognise this. Whilst the firm has grown in ten years, we remain nimble, responsive and client focused and we are able to operate with lower overhead costs than many large commercial firms. We believe that operating in this way means we offer our clients both quality and value. Our firm was described by one of the key legal guides a few years ago as small enough to care, large enough to battle and I think that sums up our ethos nicely.
What is your proudest achievement?
As a firm we are all immensely proud of the fact that in less than ten years, we have grown and developed a law firm which is independently recognised as Top Tier by the Legal 500. It has also been flattering to have won a number of awards in recent years, including Small Law Firm of the Year at the last Northern Law Awards.
However, from a personal perspective I am most proud of the strong team that we have developed at Collingwood Legal. Most of our team of lawyers have risen through the ranks and we are delighted to have retained our trainee solicitors upon qualification. We also currently have an unprecedented six of our lawyers (Paul Johnstone, Alexandra Besnard, Jane Sinnamon, Charlotte McBride, Helen Scott and me) all independently recognised as experts in the Legal 500.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge we have faced as a business was the sharp reduction in claims brought to the Employment Tribunal from 2013 with the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees. This led to a huge reduction in claims being brought by workers and this continued to be the case until the fees were abolished in 2017. Our workloads in dealing with disputes declined sharply at the time and we had to keep our nerve and adapt our business. We used this as an opportunity to take the time to invest and focus on developing the services we offer. This led to us setting up our Employer123 service which offers SME clients an innovative cost-effective support service which includes a package of online guidance and support, access to our team of experts for advice and insurance protection should employment claims arise. We also established our Training Division and host popular breakfast seminars and Masterclass events on topics such as Key Skills for Managers, Managing GDPR and Data Requests and business protection. What do the next ten years hold for Collingwood Legal?
I still feel we are at the early stages of an exciting journey. I think its important to appreciate our success, but also remain grounded and my wife and three active boys certainly help with that! I suspect Ill continue to juggle an active home life as a rugby and football dad with running a specialist law firm for the years to come.