Inside one of the South East’s largest and oldest law firms

Started by William Cripps in 1852, and continued on by his son, the company now employs 450 people across its London and Tunbridge Wells offices, including 72 partners, and turns over more than £45million a year.

The firm’s ongoing success owes much to current Managing Partner Gavin Tyler, who has steered the business through two mergers, first with Vertex Law in 2013, and more recently with Pemberton Greenish, which has seen the size of the business almost triple during his tenure.

Not bad for a man who didn’t really want to be a lawyer in the first place.

“It was my intention to join the army,” admitted Gavin, who has held the reins of the top-70 law firm since 2013.

The 58-year-old father of three joined the company in 1984, after getting married. Back then, Cripps had just 13 partners and employed 65 people.

“My wife had fallen pregnant just as I was about to pursue an army career, so it wasn’t a good time to go off and join the military,” he recalled.

The former College of Law student was steered into a legal career by his father, himself a lawyer at Cripps: “He didn’t get into law until in his 40s, but had become a partner so was keen for me join the firm.”

The young Gavin Tyler soon progressed, rising through the legal ranks from articled clerk [trainee solicitor] to associate, and by the age of 29 he had become a Partner himself.

“I started as a general litigator, doing everything from magistrates’ court hearings to divorces,” remembered Gavin.

However, he says he no longer sees himself as a lawyer.

“I’m far more interested in the business of law rather than
law itself.

“I see myself as a businessman rather than a lawyer – I have to, I have 450 people and their families relying on Cripps Pemberton Greenish.”

Perhaps the biggest change to the 166-year-old firm has been the recent merger between Cripps and London-based property and private wealth lawyers Pemberton Greenish, which was completed at the end of last year.

Following the deal, Cripps Pemberton Greenish has
become one of the largest practices in the South East outside of London.

“I spent three years looking for suitable merger partners,” explained Gavin. “They needed to be like us, with a similar culture, and we wanted them to be London-based as 40 per cent of our clients now have a London postcode.”

Despite this, the former Skinners’ pupil has a deep caring for the town in which he has lived and worked all his life.

“I love this town. I grew up here and have spent my entire life working here. I also love this business and its history and tradition, which are very much part of Tunbridge Wells.”

While changes to legal aid have meant the law firm no longer offers this service, this does not stop Cripps Pemberton Greenish from putting something back into the community to which Gavin says he owes so much.

“We do an awful lot of pro bono work, and we have our annual charity, which raises up to £40,000 a year, which is very important to the staff here, especially the younger generation.”

He added that going forward, the law industry is facing some tough challenges.

“Over-regulation is a big problem for the profession. As a country we are good at regulating unnecessarily, and lawyers have been regulated to within an inch of their lives.

“Most of us got into this business because we want to help people and make a difference, and this over-regulation is going to stop the next generation choosing this as a career.”


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