Jay Farr and Tom Brooks from our legal and insurance team catch up with Stephen Askins who tells us about the launch of a new specialist law firm based in London, Tatham & Co, healthy competition and good coffee.
Stephen, let's kick things off by explaining the new name Tatham & Co?
Stephen Askins: Simon Tatham has been in the legal profession for over 35 years and the name is known in the market and it seemed right that the firm’s name reflected that.
How does it feel now that the news has finally broken?
SA: In a sense this is a continuation of what we were doing before so we have a good book of business to build on but any new beginning brings a degree of excitement and a chance to steer our own course.
The firm is made up of yourself, Simon Tatham and James Hickland. Anyone else? Why the new firm?
SA: We have a great team of junior staff and our model also incorporates a number of consultants who are senior lawyers or practitioners that have their own networks but importantly provide mentoring to the junior lawyers. It is also a way of ensuring that hard earned experience is not lost from the industry. The consultancy model can work for anyone who doesn’t want to work full time but wants to be able to work with a team. We decided that we needed a new structure to grow in the way that we wanted to.
We have spoken a few times over the past month and one thing that I love about the new firm is the environment you are trying to create and your vision towards the way you work with your clients. Can you explain to everyone else what that is?
SA: I think it is really important to enjoy what you do. Coming to work should not be something to dread. As a life-long Liverpool fan still revelling in the extraordinary win against Barcelona, I strongly believe that any team or firm needs some key ingredients to generate a successful and winning culture. That means creating an environment where people want to work. If you can do that and can adopt a sensible strategic vision then that will be reflected in the advice we give and the clients can only benefit.
It sounds like these are exciting times ahead for you! What are you looking forward to the most?
SA: Getting back on the road and meeting the clients.
What do you feel the market is like at the moment for smaller firms? Do you feel the pressure of competition? What about pressure on hourly rates?
SA: I think that this is a great time to be a buyer of maritime legal services. The fragmentation of the sector must be a good thing for the clients. There is now a really good choice of firms whose core areas overlap but whom can distinguish themselves in some way either by their specialities or by the countries they primarily cover. Of course you feel the pressure and the aim is to provide a service more quickly and that is better and cheaper than your rivals. That competition means you can’t rest on your laurels. Being small allows much greater flexibility on rates. But whilst the bigger firms have a much greater brand awareness the recent events at Ince & Co show that small can be beautiful.
What types of work are you being instructed on? By whom?
SA: Our work comes from a variety of sources and covers our key areas including dry shipping, casualty work including salvage and hijackings and kidnappings on which we have particular expertise. In John Reeder QC we have an expert on the law of prize and treasure salvage cases which has seen some interesting work around bullion finds on historic wrecks. We act for owners who trade to complex environments (ie war torn countries or those with capricious jurisdictions) often involving issues under War Risk insurance. James Hickland attracts work from commodity traders and also aviation clients.
Are there any new areas that you are looking to develop as a firm?
SA: Diversification is important. The key is not to stray too far from your core skills and one area that we would like to grow further is on the commodity side. We are well placed to do that.
Where have you decided to set up shop? I heard something about a lounge room?! Is it some kind of new style of open plan office? Is the coffee good?
SA: London is now well served by some really good providers of serviced offices and we are pleased to have found one with excellent landlords; a bright and refurbished office space and yes a communal bar and café area and in house gym which allows more interaction with those we share an office with.
In terms of recruiting, who would be the best fit for the firm?
SA: I think there is a rich seam of lawyers who are frustrated by the career progression in the bigger firms and who have a bit of a following and want to test themselves. They will need to be good at what they do, have some ambition to succeed, with a small amount of the pioneer in them and a real willingness to work in a small firm without all the in-house support that a big firm may have. As I said above, they will need to be a team player.
Find out more about Tatham & Co. at http://www.tathamlaw.com/. To view this role and our latest legal vacancies, visit https://jobs.spinnaker-global.com/Job/pr010035_shipping-solicitor-specialist-firm-london_europe.