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Growth of ESP HR Changes Face of Employment Law Landscape

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Surrey-based ESP HR has established a 4-strong Leeds-based legal team as the company prepares for further growth.

Four leading employment law specialists have been recruited to service the firm’s ever-expanding nationwide client base.

Sarah Dillon and Nina Robinson – both directors of the company and ex DAC Beachcroft and Ward Hadaway – are now joined by solicitors Lucy Gordon from DLA Piper and Caroline Acton from Consilia Legal. Collectively, the team have expertise ranging from redundancy and performance management, to disciplinaries, employment tribunal litigation and whistleblowing.

The expansion signifies changing demands within the HR and wider business sector, believes ESP’s founder Pete Byrne.

“The company was formed in 2003, and began life as an insurance-backed employment helpline reseller,” he explains. “But we spotted an opportunity in a very fragmented market. When advice was required, Human Resources departments had three options of where to turn – the expensive support of a traditional law firm, insight from a non-legally regulated HR consultancy or a low-value commoditised service from an HR helpline/online resource provider.

“We knew we could bridge this gap. So, we established an employment law firm – with our own legal and HR experts – to save clients time and money, fix their hitherto variable legal spend, enhance the commercial effectiveness of their organisations and upskill their teams.”

This very different kind of ABS (Alternative Business Structure) law firm was therefore established and approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in May 2015.

In the early years ESP focussed on working purely with SMEs, however it secured its first major corporate client with over 1,000 staff in 2004, less than 12 months into the company’s existence.  Fast forward to 2017, the firm has acted for more than 1,000 large organisations in total and has 250 subscription customers on its books, including Ladbrokes Coral, luxury luggage retailer Antler and global fashion giant PVH Holdings – owner of brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger).

Margin improvements of at least 30% per annum have been achieved the last three consecutive years – a metric now expected to increase beyond 50% by the end of this financial year.

“We have thought carefully about the products and services we offer, from specialist employment law advice to integrated online HR resources, HR administration software, on-site consultancy support, plus e-learning and development tools,” he elaborates. “This – coupled with our hiring strategy – means we have a very attractive proposition to offer our prestigious clients.

“Rather than operating a pyramid structure like most legal firms, we appoint senior level solicitors from some of the best practices in the city and allow them to work flexibly from home, using our cutting-edge technology. We invest in our people and processes, rather than regional offices, which means we’re not billing machines. We’re personable, passionate and experienced professionals, committed to providing the highest level of HR and legal advice without the price tag!

“Something had to change in this industry and our growth signifies that visionary HR teams are glad it did.”

ESP’s headquarters are based in Woking. The company employs 15 people in total.

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Chris is a digital marketing and publishing whizz by trade, having worked alongside the Automotive, Information Security and Software Asset Management sectors.

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