Mayo Wynne Baxter is increasing its footprint across the South East. Chief executive Dean Orgill tells us more…
Mayo Wynne Baxter is on an exciting expansion journey. The Sussex-based law firm, founded more than 150 years ago in Lewes, now boasts a team of 180 people – soon to be 220 – and has ambitious growth plans in place for 2023 and beyond.
At the helm of the business is chief executive Dean Orgill. Dean joined Mayo Wynne Baxter (then Wynne Baxter Godfree) in 1987 after splitting a two-year training contract between firms in Aldershot and Crawley. Since qualifying as a solicitor, he has specialised in litigation work, ultimately focussing on commercial disputes of various descriptions.
Dean explains, however, that from the start of his career, he was always curious as to how the business itself worked. Gradually, Dean moved into management roles, including heading up the litigation team, until he became a managing partner at the firm in 1999. When Wynne Baxter Godfree merged with Mayo and Perkins in 2007, Dean stayed on the board and became chairman. In 2011, he took the role of deputy chief executive and then chief executive at the start of 2021.
The past year has been a busy one, exemplified by Mayo Wynne Baxter’s merger with national legal and professional services group Ampa in May 2022. The move to join Ampa is part of a wider strategy shared by the businesses for growth, collaboration and combined infrastructure, as well as shared values supporting clients and the community.
Following the merger, Dean retained his chief executive role and also took a seat on the group board. He says: “We are very excited with how it is going so far. Our merger into the Ampa Group gave us the opportunity to really accelerate our plans for growth. As the anchor brand in the South East for the group’s House of Brands strategy, we are targeting expansion in Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and are looking for like-minded firms and individuals to ‘get on the bus’ with us.”
Dean explains that Mayo Wynne Baxter has already recruited some exceptional individuals to the team and is always on the lookout for new opportunities. Earlier this year, the company announced that Eastbourne-based firm Lawson Lewis Blakers would become part of the Mayo Wynne Baxter brand, taking the team to more than 220 people and adding £2 million to its turnover. “Lawson Lewis Blakers joins Mayo Wynne Baxter as our first post-Ampa merger, but they certainly will not be the last,” states Dean. “We will continue to recruit to increase “organic” growth, but also look for further mergers, or team hires, either within our current footprint or across the region.”
Mayo Wynne Baxter offers a full range of legal services for both businesses and individuals, including conveyancing, wills and estates work, commercial property, company and commercial and family work. It also has specialists in particular areas such as travel, professional negligence claims, property litigation, clinical negligence claims, deputyships, intellectual property and agricultural law. Dean points out that, through the Ampa Group, the list of specialist services that the business can offer has expanded massively.
The firm’s two mantras are Exceptional service from outstanding people and Together stronger. “We have a people-centric approach and recognise the importance of professional service,” says Dean. “We aim to recruit and retain the best people to offer the best service to our clients. To check if we live up to this, we seek feedback – not just at the end of a case but also whilst it is ongoing. We first introduced this in 2007 and learned so much, so have maintained it since to ensure lessons are not forgotten. We have a very high client retention rate, but we will never take anything for granted and constantly challenge ourselves to keep to our high standards.”
To effectively manage the growing team, Dean’s leadership skills must be up to scratch. So, what is his management style and what are his key strengths? “The phrase ‘calm and measured’ was once included by a referrer for my legal work and I think that applies to my leadership style,” he says. “It is important to be consistent too, and to be the same authentic person in all situations. From an early age, I was taught to treat everyone with respect, and I endeavour to keep that in mind. I aim to be inclusive and listen to all points of view and take those into account wherever possible, and to explain carefully if there is a reason why an alternative option is preferred.”
Ultimately, in many cases, the final decision rests with Dean. Whilst he does not shy away from those occasions, he would prefer to share decision-making responsibilities with the wider team. “There are a lot of talented and experienced people around me and a big part of my role is to trust them and empower them to make decisions wherever possible. Ideally, in my role, I think that I would be doing very little myself yet at the same time ensuring that everything that needs to be done is done, which is not quite the easy ride that it sounds.”
For Dean, when it comes to running a business, integrity and hard work should each be a “given” but need to be demonstrated consistently and almost constantly. He adds that people need to trust their leader. “There is a sure knowledge that everyone, including me, makes mistakes but I like to think that people recognise that I always take decisions in good faith and in the best interests of the business – even if they do not agree with me. Likewise, I try to be patient with anyone else who makes a mistake. No one does so on purpose and if the situation can still be approached positively, an improvement can be made for next time. I try to give everything my best shot and if someone else is doing that, then being hyper-critical of any mistake will achieve nothing.”
Although Dean’s role is challenging, he enjoys it – and that is fundamental. “I know that I work best to a challenge. That said, my family and my health remain my ultimate priority, and perhaps sometimes we all need to remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing, and to remember to enjoy life along the way.”
On a final note, I ask Dean what advice he has for like-minded firms preparing for or amidst expansion. He promotes the importance of knowing your values – what is important to you, both for your business and on a personal level, and also the values of the people that you are working with. Where do they align with yours and where are they different?
Similarly, Dean adds that you should know your own and your team’s skills, any skills deficiencies and communication styles. “If you do, you can properly address whether you need to plug any skills gaps. You can also consider whether any differences detract from the team overall – do they not matter or do they add to the diversity of thought to enable better decisions? That collective self-knowledge is vital to your planning for moving forward, and it is far better to find these out sooner when you are planning than later as you hit a critical point.”
Mayo Wynne Baxter is taking its services to the next level, and we can expect to see much more from them over the course of the year – from new mergers and partnerships to team appointments and recruiting fresh talent. Good luck with the expansion!