It's All In The Planning

Issue 79

When Sweeney Miller Law's leadership team made the strategic decision to grow the firm in 2018, little did they realise what planning, a dedicated team and a lot of hard work could achieve.

The firm was established in 2002 by Founder and Managing Partner, Paul Miller in Sunderland. Surbhi Vedhara joined the firm in 2007 and became a partner in 2013. Following increasing demand for their services supporting both businesses and individuals with conveyancing, commercial property, company and commercial, family law, dispute resolution, private client and landlord and tenant, the firm opened a second office in Newcastle in 2014.

The planning phase

In 2018 and in response to the successful Newcastle move, Paul and Surbhi made a commitment to grow the firm by appointing additional new partners, deploying a strategic approach to succession planning and as part of that process undergoing a rebrand, website refresh and focus on marketing and business development.

Change from the top down The next stage, interrupted but not blown off course by the pandemic, was to reconfigure and future proof the senior leadership team and build solid foundations for growth. This led to Jess Fenwick and Damien Todd joining Surbhi Vedhara as Equity Partners, whilst founder Paul Miller stepped into a training and consultancy role. Jess and Damien’s promotion in 2021 demonstrated the firm’s commitment to the career progression of its team with no ‘glass ceilings’. Like Surbhi, Jess and Damien started life at the firm as paralegals, then became trainee solicitors, qualifying and ultimately reaching the pinnacle of becoming Equity Partners.

A new home with room for growth

The most recent development for the ambitious firm was the relocation of its Newcastle branch to 4400 square feet office space over two floors at Bulman House in Gosforth. This was in addition to nearly 9000 square feet office premises in Ashbrooke, Sunderland. As well as providing space for the firm’s continued expansion, with improved transport links and car parking, the new offices are more accessible to its clients and staff.

The team is everything

Understanding that its team are its greatest asset, the firm has developed its own bespoke inhouse training programme with dedicated facilities in the new Gosforth office. This provides school leavers and graduates with structured, vocational based learning ensuring consistency in service standards, procedures, communication skills, administration, technical expertise, as well as embedding the core values of the firm – ‘the Sweeney Miller Way’.

Again, investing in future talent, the firm has collaborated with Newcastle University and Sunderland University, establishing an annual ‘Sweeney Miller Scholarship Grant’, providing scholarships for students interested in a career in the law. The firm is always looking at innovative ways to develop lawyers of the future, including through the solicitor apprenticeship, licensed conveyancer and CILEX routes.

Understanding the pressures of working in a law firm for all members of staff, the firm is committed to the wellbeing of its team. This was particularly important during the pandemic. Eight members of the firm, all senior lawyers or partners, have been trained as Mental Health first aiders, and can identify and deal with early signs of any staff in difficulty.

Executing the plan and delivering results

Since making the strategic decision to grow the firm in 2018 and taking each of the practical steps to make that happen, the firm’s turnover will have increased by 65% at its financial year end in May 2022. In turn, the firm’s headcount continues to grow and is now approaching 80.

As well as the positive numbers, the firm is working with much larger corporate clients and increasingly receives instructions from across the UK, including London and is benefitting from the rapidly developing opportunities of “North-shoring”, where both business and private clients from the South, instruct more affordable professional service providers in the North.

An endorsement of the firm’s achievements has been the recent news that Sweeney Miller are finalists in the 2022 Northern Law Awards Law Firm of the Year (1- 5 Partners) category, as well as for the Team of the Year – Commercial Property and Team of the Year – Residential Property categories. The Awards are a reflection of the exceptional legal talent in the region and celebrate the successes across the North East’s legal community.

Maintaining momentum and looking ahead

Reflecting on the firm’s growth, Surbhi said, “I am so proud of what every member of the Sweeney Miller team has achieved in the last four years, from ensuring that excellent service standards were maintained throughout the pandemic, attracting fantastic new clients from across the UK, to dealing with the upheaval of moving to Bulman House. With solid foundations in place, from the firm’s leadership team to maintaining a strong pipeline of exceptional talent, it is exciting to see what we can achieve in the next four years. The icing on the cake has been confirmation of becoming finalists at this year’s Northern Law Awards, it should be a great evening – we wish the best of luck to each of the other finalists.”

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