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Leading Law Firm rewards success with move to Employee Ownership

(L to R): Ison Harrison’s Richard Timperley (back left), Jonathan Wearing, Dominic Mackenzie (back centre), Richard Coulthard (front left), Sarah Laughey (front centre), Jenny Bland (front right) Gareth Naylor and James Thompson (back right).

One of Yorkshire’s leading law firms has become entirely owned by its employees after the three shareholder directors agreed to sell the business to an Employee Ownership Trust.

Ison Harrison, which has a network of sixteen offices throughout the region, was founded in 1978 as S.C Harrison & Co, merging a decade later with Ison Driver & Furness, to form Ison Harrison. Forty-three years later it now employs more than 230 staff across Yorkshire and offers the broadest suite of legal services in the region.

The firm, which has an annual turnover of £16 million, has become a well-known regional practice representing around 20,000 clients each year the vast majority of whom live in the region. Over the years the firm has represented clients in many high profile cases including several families at the inquest of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster.

The growth of the firm over the past decade has been primarily driven through the development of an extensive branch network with residential property, wills and probate and family work in particular taking the lead. The firm has always had a strong property work profile and now boasts one of the largest specialist teams in the country in acting for purchasers of New Build homes. The last two years have seen the firm focus further on diversification by expanding its commercial offering substantially, to include Corporate, Litigation, Employment and Commercial Property for an ever growing commercial client base. As the firm has grown in size, breadth and depth its name has become a mainstay of Yorkshire’s legal landscape.


Directors of the firm opted against a traditional business sale or merger options, choosing an employee ownership trust instead with the workforce now owning 100% of the business.

Under the new ownership model, the management structure will comprise of eight directors with five new directors welcomed to the existing Board including James Thompson, Gareth Naylor, Jenny Bland, Sarah Laughey and Richard Coulthard.

Jonathan Wearing, who has been head of the firm for 15 years, remains Managing Director with Richard Timperley and Dominic Mackenzie, the other two shareholder Directors remaining as Finance Director and Head of Private Client respectively.

Jonathan Wearing commented: “Richard, Dominic and I have enjoyed many successful years in growing the business and strengthening the firm’s footprint across Yorkshire but given our size we felt a new structure was necessary for us to continue to grow. By becoming an employee owned business and extending the breadth and reach of the Board we feel that we are really well set up for whatever the future holds. The move offers stability, continued job security for all of our dedicated staff and a platform for further growth.

“Employees will have a greater influence over the future direction of the firm, will financially benefit from the ongoing success of the business and continue to deliver unrivalled client service in the multitude of private and commercial arenas in which we operate. It will allow us to involve and reward everyone, attract talent in the region and demonstrate a genuine point of difference in a competitive market.

“In short, converting into an Employee Ownership Trust is great news for every single employee of the firm and everyone now has a stake in the business and can share in the success and profits that are made going forward.”

Employee ownership is growing significantly in popularity, with many businesses opting for the model.

The employee ownership sector witnessed unprecedented growth in 2020, which continued throughout 2021. Over 250 new employee-owned businesses were created in the past 18 months, with 72 of those in the first quarter of 2021 alone, making a total of 730 employee owned businesses in the UK (as of June 2021).

Deb Oxley OBE, Chief Executive of the EOA, said: “We congratulate Ison Harrison on its transition to 100% employee ownership and its commitment to engaging its employees in its vision and sharing in its future success.

“At a time when many similar businesses are challenged by the succession issues presented by more traditional structures, this move roots jobs for the longer term in the communities the business serves.”

Ison Harrison is the most accredited law firm in Yorkshire, with 13 Law Society accreditations including Conveyancing Quality, Clinical Negligence, Children Law, Family Law, Immigration & Asylum, and SRA Higher Courts Rights – civil and criminal.

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