More than a decade ago, when I was working in another law firm, a couple of my fellow partners and I realised we could do things differently. We decided to create a commercial law firm that could compete with the big City-based and international firms across Europe, but which would be proudly based in Wales.
In doing that, we felt we could achieve two things: a different working culture and a lower cost base. Because Wales is a great place to work and lots of people want to live here – particularly those who already have Welsh connections – our idea was that we could attract super-bright lawyers from the City to come and work with us. We would then effectively sell them back to the City and around the UK and Europe.
When we set up Capital Law, a couple of other aspects set us apart from traditional law firms. We only do commercial law, serving businesses, the public sector and the third sector. We don’t get involved in areas such as personal injury, family law or crime.
The other element is harder to define, but we call it “Our Way”. We operate in a manner that allows our people to be grown-ups and take responsibility for their own lives. They have to ensure their legal work is of the highest possible standard, but work is just a part of their life rather than all of it.
This has helped us to recruit the bright people we need. Most of them are aged between 30 and 40 and either have small children or are planning on starting a family, so work is only one factor in their decision to come to Cardiff. In the main, we bring people in from London and Bristol, although we have also recruited from other firms in Wales.
We’re firmly rooted in Cardiff. The firm where the three of us used to work was based here, and none of us had any intention of living or working elsewhere. Wales is a great place to set up a business. We have access to finance, such as from the Development Bank of Wales, which is wholly owned by the Welsh Government and funds businesses with between £50,000 and £5 million. We also have Business Wales, which can provide support and financial assistance to very early-stage businesses.
A few years ago, the Welsh Government took the decision to grow the economy in partnership with the private sector, and put in place a range of panels to advise them. I’m now a member of the Ministerial Advisory Board, made up of 10 people from the private sector who advise the Government on policy. As part of one initiative, I asked chief executives from the financial services sector what the main advantages of basing a business in Wales were. Every one of them said it was the people here who made a difference.
Cardiff itself is predicted to be the fastest-growing city in Europe over the next 20 years. We have extensive housing and Grade-A office development, and a new transport network in the Metro project. Our three universities produce tens of thousands of qualified students every year. People tend to think about Cardiff as being a modestly sized city. But if you look at where you can get to in a 40-minute drive, we’re talking about an area of 1.4 million people with good communication links. That’s a big pull for firms looking to set up in Wales.
As for Capital Law, we’ve achieved what we set out to do 10 years ago, having grown around 10% a year since then. Our plan for the next few years is further aggressive but organic growth. To do that, we will need to continue to attract brilliant people who want to come here – and we can do it, because Wales is a great place to live and work. Wales is at the very centre of our business model.