MB: Hello and welcome to this edition of Realm Talks To. Today, I’m joined by Lucy Hart, Managing Director of Sinclair Law, a private client and family law boutique in Cheshire. Thank you so much for joining us, Lucy.
LH: Thanks for having me. It’s good to be here. Thank you.
First of all, could you give us a whistlestop tour of your career so far?
Yeah, sure. So I’ve always specialised in family law. I did a training contract back in the day at a high street practice on the Wirral and qualified in 2007 and then moved to Weightmans. I was there for about 8 years, then Irwin Mitchell and then Co-op and then here to Sinclair Law. So that’s how I got there.
MB: You moved to Sinclair Law after spending much of your career working at those much larger national firms. What was it about Sinclair Law that led you to decide that a smaller specialist firm you know would be suited to you?
LH: It was a mix of things really, professionally and personally. I think on a professional level I was looking for somewhere with a lower volume of clients. So, you know, you could still have the good quality of work that I was doing at those bigger firms but were in an environment where you could give a much more personal service to the clients that you had. And also on a personal level, I was just looking for something a bit different. I felt I’d been in the same sort of firm in Manchester for a very long period of time and just wanted a new challenge really. And I think Sinclair Law really presented that at the time.
MB: When you became Managing Director of Sinclair, 2017, did you know exactly what type of working environment you wanted to foster at Sinclair?
LH: I think I did, yeah. Because I knew what I wanted to be able to offer that to other people in the same situation as me. And on a personal level, I wanted flexibility. This was 2017 pre-COVID and working from home just didn’t really exist. And I wanted to be able to offer flexibility. I had a young family at the time and the long hours and the commute and all of that was a struggle. It really was. So you know, I wanted to be able to offer that to staff members but also to be part of a really supportive team. In my experience at big firms – and I’m not obviously saying it’s like this everywhere – there was competition between the team members.
So, rather than paying lip service to being a team, I really wanted to create a team environment where everyone supports each other and works together. There’s no competition over work and you know, it can create a really supportive environment on a professional level. And that then helps people be supported in their personal life as well. I also wanted to create an environment where you really felt valued and not just one person in a massive corporation
MB: What kind of work does the family team deal with in terms of the types of cases, your client base and also the typical case size?
LH: Our client base is predominantly local. So Cheshire-based, you know we we have an awful lot of clients who come to us in the local area. You know they’ve seen our name around and they want the type of expertise that you would usually associate with a big practice in town but don’t necessarily want to travel there. So yeah, most of our clients are local to Cheshire and in terms of the type of work we do then obviously we’re a specialist family practice and I’d probably say about 70 to 80% is finance and the remainder is children. So we are probably quite finance-focused, although we have some solicitors who specialise in children. So they tend to do mostly children work and then the rest of us tend to do mostly finance work.
Our typical client is probably a small business owner with professional assets of two to three million probably, our typical clients, what we would call our bread and butter work. And then we do have you know higher-value cases that myself and the partners do which are of 5 million plus.
MB: And what I’m what sort of case size do the solicitors have, in terms of how many cases they have at one time?
LH: It massively varies. Because of the type of work I do, I’ve only got four or five cases because you know they are very high-value clients who demand a lot of my time and require a very specialist service. But then you know we’ve got a full range of solicitors from NQs up to the higher level but I don’t think anyone has more than roughly 25.
We do expect people to therefore be in a position where they can provide that high level of service to everyone for regardless of of how valuable the case is. Because they’ve got lower client volumes, people can really feel that that they’re getting the type of work that they need.
MB: How else do you support your lawyers to develop in their careers?
LH: We have regular training programmes, people attend conferences and courses, but also all of our junior lawyers have somebody that they can go to for supervision to discuss issues in a particular case that that that they might have. We have regular team meetings where everyone talks about what’s going on and we support them to do more business development work as well, to develop their own personal profile in the area. And again on a personal level, you know, we offer flexibility, arrange meals out, parties/ We have fun and generally foster an environment where people feel that they can progress in their career and be happy at work as well, which is really important.
What are your ambitions and plans for the firm over the next 12 to 18 months?
We’ve we’ve grown very quickly over the past five years. When I came here in 2017, it was just myself and Sandra Sinclair who were the two family solicitors and we’re now up to 9 family solicitors, 2 paralegals and a couple of admin support. So you know that’s that’s quite quick organic growth over the past few years and I’d like to continue that.
We actually have a waitlist for clients who want to come to us. We’ve got more work than we have fee-earners available. I don’t want to overload the fee-earners we’ve got because that’s not what we’re about. My hope would be that we continue to grow and you know we opened a new office in Bramhall a few years ago and maybe another office location somewhere else in Cheshire would be really nice.
MB: Really exciting! Thank you so much for joining us today, Lucy. It was really interesting to hear about your career journey and also what it’s like to work at Sinclair.