Recent expansion at Plymouth-based marine law firm
Davies Johnson, the specialist marine law firm based in Plymouth and the market leader in the west of England, is now reaching an even bigger audience in the global shipping and marine insurance sectors following its recent acquisition by Thomas Miller Law. The Thomas Miller group of companies has been providing insurance, legal and technical services to the maritime industry worldwide for over a century.
The Plymouth firm has built a reputation for expertise, common sense and cost-effectiveness over the last 25 years, making it a provider of choice for many London insurers and international shipping companies, often ahead of larger and more expensive firms on their doorstep.
Working in the marine world means that no two days are ever the same for the Plymouth team. Cargo lost overboard, fires and explosions in engine rooms, mega-yachts crashing into quaysides and other vessels, medical evacuations, sinkings, salvage, stowaways and a host of other urgent problems add a sense of the unexpected to the shipping lawyer’s daily diet of vessel charters, freight contracts, disputes between shipyards and their customers, and working with barristers to prepare for court hearings and arbitrations.
“That’s the world we live in, and we wouldn’t change it for the world”, says Thomas Miller Law’s Peter Jackson. “Any decent lawyer can get their head around contracts and regulations, but it takes someone a bit special to keep all of that in mind when there’s a ship on the beach and 100 people all wanting their pound of flesh from your client in the middle of the night. We’ve known the Davies Johnson team for a long time and when we were looking to acquire a top-quality marine practice to complement our own expansion, we didn’t have to look too far.”
Thomas Miller Law is based in Newcastle, way up the line from Plymouth; but when asked about the distance, Jackson says simply “The similarities far outweigh the differences. Thomas Miller himself was a Newcastle ship-owner who thought he could teach London a thing or two, and 130 years later his office there insures a large chunk of the global shipping and transport market and provides legal and technical services to some of the biggest operators in the industry. A regional provider has to offer quality, energy and value for money- Davies Johnson embodies the things Thomas Miller was built on.”
The excitement is just as noticeable in Sutton Harbour. “Becoming a part of Thomas Miller will allow us to make the most of the skills and experience we have here, and to expand in a way which we couldn’t before,” says Andrew Fox, a maritime solicitor for the past 21 years. “And let’s not forget the thriving marine industry right here in the south-west- the region’s ports, shipyards and large yacht businesses have attracted a lot of interest from London and overseas.
“Thomas Miller has seen a real value in actually establishing itself here. This region has given more to maritime history than anywhere else in the world, from the voyages of discovery and the Mayflower to the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and now some of the finest yacht builders in the market- I’m amazed it’s taken until now for a major player to put down roots here!”
Integration of the Plymouth firm into Thomas Miller will see a deepening of ties with local universities, colleges and business communities. “Big city firms sometimes don’t know the talent on their own doorstep,” says Jackson. “But regional firms live and die by it. We want to start working on the next generation right here and now.”
One person keen to encourage local talent is Karolina Bieganska, who qualified as a solicitor with the firm last year after studying shipping at Plymouth University and spending time at sea: “The maritime education in Plymouth attracts people from all over the world and everyone falls in love with the area, but they don’t necessarily see opportunities to make a career here,” she explains. “I qualified with a great firm and now I’m part of a global maritime giant- I want other people to know that those opportunities are here.”
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