Meet the member - Tom Seabrook from Gunnercooke
Name of Business Gunnercooke LLP
• Who are you? Gunnercooke is a national full service law firm but without the usual structure; all our lawyers are self employed and free to act when and where they want to. We all have at least 10,000 hours of experience as lawyers and in most cases we also have experience in industry or other professions. My own area of practice is property advisory and disputes and I am dual qualified as a solicitor and chartered surveyor.
• What sets you apart from the competition? We have no targets, no equity partners or shareholders to feed. We don’t get tied up with appraisals and firmwide strategy plans. We are free to work on whatever basis we want to, to put our clients before all else and simply get on with giving good legal and commercial advice. We try to be trusted business advisors rather than just lawyers although I do regularly act for individual clients in relation to residential properties, whether their own home or buy to let etc. We don’t try to compete on price but we do aim to deliver value, we scope each job and pricing is factored by what it is worth to the client. In most cases we can deal on fixed or capped fees which aren’t contingent on hourly rates which often reward inefficiency.
• How did the business come about? Gunnercooke was started in 2010 when our founders set out to deliver a different experience after surveying various industries to find out what they actually wanted from their lawyers. The whole ethos is about flexibility, transparency and freedom, for our lawyers and our clients.
• What are your main target markets? I often remind myself why I first got into real estate as a builder’s labourer when I was 14. I wanted to help shape my environment then and I still do now. That is one of the main reasons I want to work more locally, the other being that I feel I can add more value for my clients acting locally. I act for everyone from individual householders to major plc’s. I particularly like to help smaller businesses with efficiencies and risk management on the basis it is better to avoid disputes than try to sort them later. However, I have also developed products for plc banks.
• How long has your business been in existence? I’ve been at Gunnercooke since 2015. I had been ill for some time before taking stock and realising I didn’t want to work in BigLaw for the next 20 years, starting from scratch, and it has been very rewarding to build my own business since then.
• How many staff do you employ? Gunnercooke now has about 200 partners working nationally and flexibly at home, at clients’ offices or our own offices in Manchester, London or our hub in Leeds. The firm deals with my back office and regulatory requirements and I have access to secretarial and paralegal support on a pay as you go basis. That way I don’t carry the overhead of employing people when workloads are variable.
• What job or achievement makes you most proud? I still see developments I was involved in from years back as a portfolio management surveyor and get a buzz. It’s nice to feel you have left a mark. But positive feedback from clients and colleagues makes me proud too. In fact, only recently I was referred a job to assist a non-contentious real estate lawyer who has actually left and gone to another firm. He and his end client would rather I dealt with their problem despite the fact his new firm has that capability. That is very affirming.
• Where do you see the business being in five years? I am getting to the point where I can start to choose the jobs I want to do and the people I want to work with and I hope to see more of that. I spent many years in BigLaw, even as a partner, working for whoever I was told to work for. I’d like to be able to afford to do more pro bono and voluntary work for deserving causes. As it is, I have various voluntary roles locally and I am a director of UK Deaf Sport.
• Why Warrington? I’ve lived in Lymm for the last 10 years or so and, although it is not where I grew up, I feel at home here now. Once again we are back to shaping the local environment. I enjoy working with people I know outside of work and sharing experiences with local contacts. Warrington is quite obviously on the up and it is exciting to hopefully have a hand in its success.
• Tell us one interesting thing about the business that might surprise us? We have a number of complimentary businesses within the group which includes one to create the commercial lawyers of the future, management consultancy, pension trustees and an arm which assists charities with governance and fundraising.
• Tell us one interesting thing about you that people might not know? (ie, hobbies, amusing fact, etc) I am deaf and have a cochlear implant which has been completely life changing and I wouldn’t be where I am without it. I am currently testing an improved processor which isn’t yet on the market and am due to do a video for the manufacturer shortly. They have given me all sorts of kit to try out with it.
• Brexit – good, bad, opportunity? I expect it will be what we make of it. The volume of business I deal with has not really been affected by the economy since I started but the type of work changes, we see more distressed assets for example in harder times. I’ve a lot of experience in complex banking litigation which comes in handy in insolvency situations. A lack of confidence in the future is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Fantasy dinner party – which six people alive or dead would you invite?
Keith Floyd, Albert Einstein, Alexander the Great, I K Brunel, Richard Harris and Tommy Cooper. We could chew the fat and have a few drinks while Keith did the cooking.