As our True Picture reveals, Trowers & Hamlins' relatively stable market position comes down to a three-pronged focus on private, public and international work.
Trowers & Hamlins' real estate practice takes on work from all three sectors, and when taken together with associated practices such as property M&A, real estate finance and construction, property-related work comprises around 50% of the firm's overall workload. The firm is well placed for action on complex, high-value projects and advisory work for local authorities and their private and third sector partners, thanks to strong local government, social housing and public procurement teams, all of which notch up top rankings in Chambers UK.
As far as government-initiated development projects are concerned, the lines between public and private work are becoming increasingly blurred in the UK, thanks to the growing trend to back public infrastructure projects with private capital. These private finance initiatives (PFIs) create public-private partnerships (PPPs). Trowers' expertise in catering for both the public and private sectors leaves it perfectly situated to breach the gap, so PFI and PPP project work is big business. One recent project saw the London team advise North Tyneside Council, who successfully managed to secure alternatively-sourced PFI funding for a £250 million development project that will deliver over 900 new and refurbished homes for older people in the region. With the UK suffering from a lack of available housing, trainees who had spent time in the firm's social housing team were proud to say that “in our own small way, we feel like we're making a difference.”
Though traditionally viewed as less-glamorous than private sector work, trainees found public sector work “both challenging and interesting” thanks to the fact that “the sort of work you cover is ever-changing, and the way in which the practice operates is driven by external events and political developments. It makes it an interesting area to engage with.” Trainees also liked the thought that “when you're advising local authorities on construction and partnering contracts for projects such as new schools, care homes or leisure facilities, there's a real feeling that you're working for the benefit of the public.”
In his 2015 summer budget, the chancellor announced that to counter the spiralling cost of home rentals, the government would impose 1% annual rent reductions in the social rented sector for four years from April 2016. The implications for housebuilding are tricky, because according to a statement issued by the Office for Budget Responsibility, such restrictions 'will directly reduce social landlords’ rental income, and therefore their financing for, and returns to, investing in new housebuilding.' When questioned, Trowers' trainees didn't seem so concerned by the potential work shortfall that could come as a result: “We have a strong reputation for social housing work, so I'm sure we'll continue to thrive in the coming years,” one source believed. Given its high profile in the field, we reckon Trowers could even see a rise in public procurement dispute work in the years ahead, as government contracts become more and more sought after.
Reduced housebuilding could also send more advisory work Trowers' way, as clients who are beneficiaries of government money search for clever new ways to negotiate stringent cost considerations.