Law firm Temple Bright passes 50 partner milestone

Innovative law firm Temple Bright, first launched in 2010, has this week added three new partners in Real Estate, Pensions and Financial Services. This brings the total number of partners to 51, with the firm passing the half-century milestone for the first time.

The lawyers are spread evenly across Temple Bright’s original Bristol base and the London office it opened in the “Tech City” district, just north of the City, early in 2013.

The double rate of growth in London is a vindication of the co-founders’ decision to plunge into the UK’s most fertile and demanding legal marketplace as soon as their Bristol operation, and the firm’s pioneering “chambers practice” model, were firmly established.

Temple Bright’s success is rooted in its creation of the chambers practice, a flat structure in which clients are advised only by senior lawyers without delegation to junior staff. Overheads are slashed and efficiency is increased through technology. The resulting savings are passed on to clients with the firm’s fees fixed or capped in the majority of cases.

The promise of experienced specialists from a City and leading regional firm background, together with reduced and more certain fees, has proved attractive to thousands of clients.

Temple Bright’s partners include alumni from most of the Magic Circle and other major UK firms, working “without the impediments of a large firm structure” as the firm’s website has it. The chambers practice replaces the traditional pyramid-shaped model, based on delegation, which the co-founders say is unnecessary and disproportionate for most legal work. As a result, the partners are released from supervising and can focus on advising clients.

The name for the firm’s model derives from the barristers’ chambers, which the structure resembles – although the firm also constitutes a unified practice, in that partners regularly team up and work on deals together across the firm’s two offices.

The co-founders say that it is this combination of structural innovation with traditional team-working, on multi-disciplinary tasks such as mergers and acquisitions, that distinguishes Temple Bright not only from its traditional peers but also from most “new model” law firms.

“We opened an office in London after three years because we felt that our approach was unique and we would be able to gain a foothold quickly, even in an already overcrowded market,” says co-founder Tim Summers.

“Those instincts turned out to be right. So far as we know, we remain the only non-traditional firm that regularly competes with and acts opposite traditional City firms. Our lawyers do not work in silos or rely mainly on legacy clients brought across from earlier roles. There is an appetite for winning new work and doing deals in teams. It is hard to do this unless everyone has a desk in a physical office, so this has always been at the heart of our model – again setting us apart from some innovative firms. Having a coherent culture is everything.”

Temple Bright’s emphasis on the importance of offices, culture and team-working might be seen as reassuringly traditional. This outlook helps explain the firm’s popularity not only with disruptive tech startups but also with larger clients such as PLCs and public sector bodies. These often instruct the firm via in-house lawyers, who may have trained in large commercial firms and find the chambers practice a refreshing alternative to the familiar hierarchy.

“We aim to combine the best of the traditional model with the best of the innovative,” says co-founder Justyn McIlhinney. “So while we started with a blank sheet regarding the firm structure and how we would use technology – meaning we could get rid of things that clients disliked, such as delegation and cost overrun – we have always stuck rigorously to the tried and tested approaches to client care and advising that we first learned in the City.

“Most importantly of all, we are extremely selective in hiring and despite the expansion in recent years, the firm has grown in a controlled way. We are not driven by growth for its own sake and we could be far bigger if we were less careful in our recruitment.”

The co-founders anticipate further growth, so long as the firm’s high standards and culture of putting clients first is maintained.

“We are always interested in talking to excellent lawyers who have the same vision of advising clients in a fresh way,” says Summers.

This article appeared on the Bdaily website on 23 September 2016.