“Our vision is to retain our identity and promote from within”

Name: 

James Swede

Role and company: 

Senior Partner of Darlingtons Solicitors.

Employee numbers: 

30

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

Based on growth in the last two to three years we anticipate adding at least five lawyers and an additional 20 staff.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace: 

I believe two things separate us out from many other law firms. We have understood for many years that law is a business as much as a profession. Our digital voice, on website and social media, is also compelling. The feedback on this is very positive.

What’s the big vision for your business? 

Our vision is to retain our identity and to promote and incentivise from within. We have a big emphasis on a happy workplace where there are opportunities for all. We generally promote from within, with an excellent retention rate for staff.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

We have certain core connections in various countries, especially India and Israel. International work is not a large part of our business currently but we recognise the increasingly global business environment and will adapt accordingly.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

My father (also a lawyer) and I were previously lawyers at a top 50 legal practice, where my father was Managing Partner. Starting our own firm, at the time, seemed like a big risk and a step backwards. In fact it was the best thing I ever did. Despite all the stresses of having your own business, the thrill of building something more than compensates for it.

What makes you mad in business today? 

I do get frustrated when clients don’t understand that many lawyers and law firms provide excellent value for money. If clients treated lawyers like accountants, obtaining regular advice, preventative advice, before problems arise, and include legal fees in budgets, this would make life much easier and save them money.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years? 

Lawyers and law firms are traditionally slow to adapt. Those that don’t adapt fast will be in real trouble. Also, every lawyer is now a marketer. Thirdly, lawyers and law firms that aren’t real team players will also suffer.

Can businesses in your sector access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things? 

Law firms have really struggled to obtain finance, as banks have been aware of oversupply of law firms for demand and poor management. Improved management and a clear strategy including marketing are the key to convincing a bank to lend to a law firm in my opinion.

How would others describe your leadership style? 

Flexible and supportive I hope. I am generally very receptive to new ideas and encourage junior members of the team to develop themselves via marketing.

Your biggest personal extravagance? 

I will follow Chelsea FC over land and sea !

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