A Teesside law firm founded decades before the 1918 Spanish flu is drawing on all its experience to help businesses in the region bounce back from the latest pandemic.
Punch Robson, established in 1877, has been supporting businesses and individuals for generations but even by its standards, the current situation has brought big challenges – as well as, it has to be said, some great opportunities.
Elaine McLaine-Wood, the managing partner at Punch Robson, heads up the firm but also leads its commercial team specialising in corporate finance, which has been a hive of activity as the Tees business scene addresses not just the Covid-19 pandemic, but the ongoing effects of Brexit.
She says those twin factors appear to have influenced a surge in the number of management buyouts, business acquisitions and company sales.
“It’s a clear feature of the last few months,” she said. “And I think the pressures caused by Covid-19 and the reactions to Brexit are combining to produce a really interesting period in the business world as companies react to both.
“Covid-19 has forced many companies into a period of reassessment, partially because of changing economic circumstances, but also partially perhaps because this is a moment where many business owners have had time to reflect on what they might want to do with their company.
“There’s also undoubtedly an influence in terms of Brexit where we have seen companies either decide to leave the UK altogether or to reduce their operations.
“This, in turn, has led to acquisition opportunities or management buy-outs with the parent company withdrawing from the country.
“So there’s a lot of change in the business market but this is a time of opportunity as well as challenge, with some company takeovers or mergers representing excellent value for money in the current market.”
Elaine has more than 20 years’ experience in the world of corporate and commercial law and the UK entering a recession in 2020 sparks memories of the 2008-09 recession which produced some similar business changes.
“It’s a time when companies are particularly pricesensitive about expenditure on any services, including legal fees, and that’s something we’re conscious of.
“That’s why we put such emphasis on delivering value for money.
“Clients who deal with us will deal with one person from Punch Robson throughout and whether we’re dealing with the buyer or seller, we work through every stage with them from the very start to the conclusion on the process.”
It’s never wise to skimp, of course, on legal expertise, particularly when it comes to the boardroom business of management buy-outs, business acquisitions and company sales.
Elaine adds: “It’s so important that due diligence is properly done. You must have due diligence to minimise liability and we work closely with accountants in ensuring the necessary attention to detail so that the client has clarity and certainty.”
Each business case is different and Elaine has dealt with everything from the smallest of SMEs to a £30m transaction, with Punch Robson’s clients drawn from all business sectors.
It’s that sort of experience and expertise which continues to make Punch Robson attractive for businesses looking for legal help in restructuring.
And one of the advantages of a company with its roots so deep in the communities of Teesside and North Yorkshire for so long is the ability to develop long-term relationships with businesses which have grown up with Punch Robson on the landscape.
“Building long-term relationships with companies is a key strategic aim of ours,” said Elaine.
“So although changes of ownership are going to be key moments in the journey – pivotal changes that need to be correctly handled – we always aim for our involvement to be ongoing wherever possible.
“And much of that is because there is so much more legal help that companies need beyond simply the point of purchase or the point of sale and we know that we can be of service when it comes to more ongoing matters – like commercial contracts, shareholder agreements, terms and conditions, correct implementation of Employment Law and so on.
“We have an advantage at Punch Robson in that we are a niche firm. These sort of things help us to smooth the way in terms of making effective progress.
“Of course, there are some things that can’t be rushed – if you are a seller, you need to have guidance in terms of warranties and indemnities. If you’re a buyer, you need to understand exactly what the risks and opportunities are.
“For precisely that reason, though, the many management buy-outs we have been involved in have often been completed very quickly, just because the buyers are intimately involved with and aware of the business and what is involved.
“Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you obviously have to continue with whatever it is you need to do on a daily basis, and that’s when having someone like Punch Robson to call on is so important – we enable you to get on with your business while we take care of what needs to be done in terms of progressing the business transfer.”
Punch Robson is a full-service legal firm and therefore not just active in the business world.
The firm also runs departments which deal with buying and selling property (commercial and residential), divorce and family law as well as wills and probate and all have busy caseloads.
Find out more at punchrobson.co.uk.