Andy and I started to analyse our business closely last October as we celebrated our 5th Birthday at Woods Whur, and prepared our next 5 year business plan. Anna Mathias joining us in 2015 had given us the opportunity to invest in a London presence and, importantly, Anna has grown our gambling practice into areas in which we had not previously had exposure. We saw this as a key success in the five years since we set up Woods Whur and set to thinking of how we could replicate that success.
One of the key shifts in our workload has been the amount of regulatory enforcement advice and representation we have been seeing in the leisure sector. We are seeing far more regulatory control and prosecution across all of the sectors where we advise clients: not just the alcohol and entertainment sector, but the gambling sector too, as the Gambling Commission started to show its teeth against those they thought infringed regulation.
Andy, Anna and I have strong practical experience of advising and representing in regulatory matters, but we felt that the introduction of a specialist Partner level lawyer and support team was vital to the development of Woods Whur. We also had a look at our specialist competition and felt that we could add more value to our existing clients and become stronger in marketing to new clients, while stealing a march on the opposition!
It is all well and good to have that aspiration but putting this into practice was going to be harder than coming up with the idea. We were helped by Tony Brooke of Florit Brooke. Tony understood our requirements and introduced James Thompson and Vinnie Schumacher separately to me. Once Andy and I had met them both we could see that their aspirations were identical to ours and that their dedication to client care mirrored what we believe in.
James is highly rated by Chambers 2016 and has been lauded as a Recommended Lawyer by the Legal 500 for 2016 for health and safety and regulatory law. He joins us from International Law Firm, Clyde and Co, to be our Head of Regulatory Law. This sees Woods Whur set up a specialist department to deal with all aspects of regulatory, health and safety and food safety law. Vinnie joins us to support James and we have also brought in Sarah Griffiths to support them both in our administration team. Vinnie qualified as a Barrister and Solicitor in New Zealand in March 2014 and worked at the largest law firm in New Zealand, Simpson Grierson, where he was actively involved in the Commercial Property and Commercial Litigation Teams. Vinnie gained significant experience representing commercial clients, with exposure to Simpson Grierson’s Blue Chip client base.
James is a specialist in the field of corporate crime, dealing with matters ranging from advising directors accused of manslaughter to assisting organisations faced with high profile and complex inquests. James has particular expertise in healthcare, retail and industry, and is a Solicitor Advocate who conducts a significant amount of his own advocacy.
James specialises in all aspects of criminal regulatory law, in particular health and safety law, and his client base covers the breadth of the public and private sectors, from retail and education to chemicals and manufacturing. He has extensive experience advising public and private healthcare providers on health and safety and regulatory compliance.
This was very exciting for us, as we got to discuss in depth where regulatory enforcement was going. We thought that his skill set was hugely important for us to be able to offer to our client base. Two late night operator clients of ours have already sought out his advice and he is undertaking some high end representation for them. We have already been approached by one of our public sector clients in relation to food safety advice and prosecutions and can only see the demand for our services growing.
James highlights in his article for this edition of our Newsletter the massive impact on our clients that the recent changes in the sentencing guidelines for health and safety, food safety and corporate manslaughter offences could well have. Those changes have resulted in previously unseen increases in fines handed down by the Courts for those in breach. These sentences are likely to become the norm, rather than the exception and, as James stresses, it is critically important to get specialist advice very early in the process.
Andy and I believe this gives us the opportunity to add significant value to our client base as we have now created this specialist department within the firm. The other benefit is that we have been able to open up a presence in Newcastle. This is a great commercial and leisure market where we are already strong, but now aim to grow our client base.
Of critical importance to Andy and me is the endorsement of us, given independently, that “the client is at the heart of everything they do”. We genuinely believe that we have enhanced our status with these appointments…and the other benefit is they are great people who have slotted into Woods Whur as if they have always been here.