Simon Etchells shares reflections two years on from launching gunnercooke Scotland

May 4, 2023
Simon Etchells


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“It feels like an engine room of motivated self-starters who have no fear of sharing knowledge and contacts.”

What has been your personal highlight of the last two years?

If I don’t say being joined by a range of brilliant lawyers who are both colleagues and friends, I am likely dead in the water…

I do have to thank Rucsar Ullah, Nicola Brown and Rachel Dunn for their leap of faith.  I also must also mention Bill Fowler, Morven Badger Finlayson, Katy Wedderburn and Alex Innes. So pleased that they have jumped too. It is great to be part of a growing, highly skilled team.

But if you twist my arm, it would be the Oxford Symposium. I have attended partner conferences and team days, large and small, for 30 years. Many had elements of huge fun and enjoyment, but none ever focused on the people, their needs, and the health of the internal business community in the way gunnercooke does. I kept waiting for the terrible bit where I was bored to tears; it never came. And the external speakers were superb – who knew Mary Portas swore like a trooper…

What are the biggest things that you have learnt?

If you have grown up in a traditional legal environment (large or small) you are institutionalised, but you do not know it. I didn’t.  Just about every day, when I now put down my virtual legal pen, client work done for the day, my day is done.  Your time is simply free of what seemed like the essential layers of the business of law, but which now, in the main, seem like clogs on productively. As my partner Katy Wedderburn said this week; it just seems weird, even liberating; where has all this time come from?

You can focus on your clients. At gunnercooke, the are no central targets, no time or debtor reports to be grilled on (we have the reports just not the grilling), no internal target performance reporting, no sectorial marketing strategy or endless cross selling initiatives. Only the latter truly matter, but cross selling is baked into the gunnercooke model. It is naturally incentivised and actually works for once. You just don’t have the meetings!

You also cannot overstate the power of the gunnercooke network, internal and external. It is the opposite of that so commonly encountered silo mentality. Instead, it feels like an engine room of motivated self-starters who have no fear of sharing knowledge and contacts. If you need help you will get it and if you need a door opened invariably someone in the firm will have a key.

From the very first day we have felt welcomed. I keep saying that we have either joined a cult or somehow Darryl and Sarah have great skills at finding a huge number of genuinely nice people, who then choose to be in business together.

What advice would you offer to Scottish lawyers thinking about joining gunnercooke?

Firstly, just ask, we are very open about how gunnercooke works. Please just call. Secondly, we’re gunnercooke – so you can be in Scotland, but you don’t need to be a Scottish lawyer. You can be any flavour but get the benefit of living where you like; ask John McMuldroch.

Then think about what you want from your legal journey. Do you like the idea of a firm environment with a very positive culture that is truly flexible enough to accommodate differences of outlook and degrees of belonging?

To me gunnercooke has the fleet of foot ethos of a small dynamic firm within a collegiate environment running the infrastructure of an international firm. gunnercooke is as big scale (or as small scale) as you choose to make it; and that is in my view a key success factor; a true USP of choice. You do not have to morph to fit your chosen corporate world; within bounds, you get to build your own.

How has gunnercooke changed since you joined the firm?

It has grown. I think that the firm is already around 30% bigger than two years ago.  It is truly full service and has over 300 partners.  I am one of 75 real estate partners, which is a significant force in the UK market. Internationally we have a strong presence in Germany and Hungary and a rapidly growing New York office. But the gunnercooke model means that we cover a range of jurisdictions without needing office space, including French, Spanish, Brazilian, Italian and Portuguese lawyers. 

The joy is you can engage with this as little or as much as you like. 

What are your ambitions and hopes for gunnercooke Scotland in the coming years?

The business wishes to grow across all disciplines, and we are certain that there are folk with the ambition and quality to get the very best out what gunnercooke can offer.

There are a lot of talented people in Scotland who would find a great business home in gunnercooke, and we believe would truly enjoy the gunnercooke way of working, though we do need a bigger office first!

To get in contact with Simon and read more about his practice, click here.

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