Ison Harrison’s managing partner, Jonathan Wearing.
Nick Hill

Interview: How Ison Harrison obtained “local culture” following merger

This past August one of the region’s top 20 law firms, Ison Harrison, completed a merger with Castleford and Pontefract firm Maurice Smiths.

Following the merger, the newly established firm now boasts 10 offices and over 190 staff, which services all sectors of society in all areas of law throughout West Yorkshire.

The two firms merging is the culmination of an expansion plan that Ison Harrison has been following for the last six years.

As each law firm will now be able to offer their clients a greater range of services, Ison Harrison’s managing partner, Jonathan Wearing, spoke with Bdaily about deciding to pursue a merger with Maurice Smiths, and how the firm’s strategy going forward will manage the expansion.

Jonathan first explained how the prospect of merging with Maurice Smiths came into motion. He said: “Over the course of the last six or seven years, we have taken over several small legal practises in and around Leeds. Strategically this has worked for us quite well. So after looking at our competitors and the market, we identified that Castleford and Pontefract would be a good place for Ison Harrison to operate in, and we could either open new offices or merge with an existing firm that is already located there.

“At the beginning of this year, we spoke about the merger internally, then it was as simple as me picking up the phone and speaking with the senior partner of Maurice Smiths.This happened around Easter time, and then it snowballed from there as it was apparent the merger would be a win win situation.”

Jonathan went on to discuss what Ison Harrison’s objective is following the merger. He stated: “The aim of the merger was to roll out what we were already doing, which was to provide good quality, well priced legal services on the high street, where people want it. We wanted to continue to offer these services in and around Leeds, as well as Castleford and Pontefract.

“Looking at our business, we’ve got a head office in Leeds where there is 100 employees and a further nine offices located around Leeds, meaning we are giving the people what they want, which is a solicitors on the high street.”

Jonathan also spoke about Ison Harrison’s strategy to manage the expanding law firm. He first explained how “all branches have very clear risk and case management systems, whether its for accounts, HR and other such policies.

“However, they also have local culture, therefore the branches reflect the place and the people of where they operate,” he added. “So in terms of management, the theory is that Maurice Smiths is now part of the bigger family of Ison Harrison, but they can operate in a slightly different way as clients will be different wherever they are based.

“We’ve got an office in Ilkley, and those clients are very different to the clients in Castleford.”

As for the hierarchy of the firm, “the existing partners are now managers of the office but are answerable to the overall management of the Ison Harrison. Jonathan’s role as managing partner will see him “look after all branch office managers, then they manage their own teams.”

Ison Harrison is now firmly established in the region, but that is where the legal practise is going to stay, as Jonathan made clear that there is no immediate plans to expand in other parts of the country.

He concluded: “The region is very big, we act for a lot of people but there are far more many people than we do act for.

“The biggest mistake you can make is to take over the world.”

“We would like to garner a very significant profile in Leeds and the West Yorkshire region, and that will take time. We know what we are, we know what we do, we know the clients we act for, we can relate to everybody where we are, and we know are limits.”

“But there is still a lot of opportunity to grow within the region, which is likely to be more successful than outside the region.”

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