Future-Proofing: Brachers role in the growth and success of the Hadlow Group
Brachers was first retained in 1992 to support Hadlow College with effective credit management and equity release to help bolster its finances and footprint in the educational sector. As with any struggling business, legal support was needed to help build resilient strategies including staffing, governance, effective credit management and land management. It was imperative to create a cohesive working culture and success came from working together and highlighting potential risks. The College’s leadership championed good corporate governance and this supported the changes that were needed to build a sustainable business for the future.
A major transition was from 2005 to 2010 when the land-based college expanded its offering to more commercial operations. This involved restructuring its sourcing of funding so that it diversified to receive income from commercial operations that included a working farm, garden centre, tea room, equine facilities, farm shops and a fishery.
Ash Jilani, Property Partner at Brachers, explains:
“We were able to support the college as it embraced a unique entrepreneurial approach to diversification.
“The two common themes which continue throughout our 25-year relationship are quality and speed. Hadlow aim for the best, and we have sought to deliver the best service to them. The evolution of Hadlow in creating a model for the future of further education, coupled with innovative commercial, social and environmental projects, has proceeded at an impressive pace. Our close working relationship and detailed understanding of their business has put us in good stead to support them in effecting innovation.”
With Brachers’ understanding of best practice and changing legislation, the firm has helped steer the Hadlow transformation to help minimise risk. The work is critical and requires bespoke services rather than working on repetitive tasks.
Jo Worby, Managing Partner at Brachers comments:
“This has had a positive impact on our team, not only in our interaction with Hadlow but also internally, collaborating across practice areas to deliver creative solutions. Our firm has grown alongside Hadlow and we have been able to meet all of their legal needs as they arise.”
“Clients don’t necessarily think of things from a legal practice perspective; they’re looking at their own issues. Our approach is about looking through their eyes and thinking about their needs and the sector in which they operate.”
Brachers have developed a high level of expertise in the industry sectors the College has chosen to focus on, including education, agriculture, SME and infrastructure. Their legal team for Hadlow is structured by these industries, so their approach is hardwired into the organisation. This approach has helped build up a strong relationship with Hadlow and has helped Brachers’ lawyers become rounded professional advisors as well as legal experts.
Jo is quick to highlight how the firm’s unconventional approach with Hadlow has led to this knowledge development:
“Traditionally, lawyers become specialised in particular legal skills but to be an outstanding lawyer is to translate commercial and sector knowledge and apply it to what’s going on with the client. Many commercial lawyers would never ask to look at the annual reports or their client’s vision and strategy but this is commonplace at our firm. Indeed, Hadlow actively encourage us to sit on their business advisory boards and we eagerly take our seat.”
Brachers’ relationship with Hadlow is an example of how the firm moves their client relationships to become a true partnership: working with the client rather than for the client. In practice, this means developing a team of sector-specialist lawyers with the leadership at Hadlow to tackle projects together - projects that Hadlow would be shy of tackling alone without a grounded support structure behind them. She adds:
“Taking this approach has provided plenty of exciting opportunities, most recently with the regeneration of Betteshanger Colliery and the development plans for West Kent and Ashford College. Our team are proud to be part of the Hadlow success story!”