COX YEATS ATTORNEYS
Cox Yeats Attorneys is a leading law firm, which is characterised by its focus on commercial legal services. The firm was established in 1964, over fifty years, ago by Graham Cox. Jeremy Yeats joined him and became a partner in March 1967. Based on the uMhlanga Ridge, Cox Yeats is the largest law firm based only in KwaZulu-Natal and comprises one of the largest commercial teams of any legal firm in the province. The firm’s two core principles, which were the foundations on which Graham Cox built the legal firm, were integrity and individual care for his clients. Now, says Managing Partner Michael Jackson, these principles have continued to shape the firm. Coupled with a young and energetic Cox Yeats team of attorneys, these principles have resulted in significant growth and the creation of an exciting story.
Over the last eight years, the boutique firm has grown from having ten partners with a total of fourteen lawyers to twenty eight partners with a total of forty six lawyers, all of whom who are fully committed to the firm. Although Jackson is the managing partner, the senior partner attorneys feel that they are being led rather directed. While the partners all have very strong A personalities, they believe that have the same mentality and are on a journey, heading in the same direction together. In order to facilitate this approach, the firm partnership meetings every month, which participative meetings, as opposed to Jackson having top down leadership approach.
Further to this approach, Cox Yeats tends to have relationships with its staff, which are built on a culture of respect for all, whether a junior or senior member staff. Consequently, there are fewer staff that leave stay on ‘well into their retirement years’. “New attorneys are generally hired from students have spent time in the firm. We work with each other very closely, rather than independently, so it is important to employ people that we get on with and who share common values.” Values such as integrity, care, being progressive and moving forward with innovative trends, are integral to the manner in which all staff tackle their duties. The career path in Cox Yeats is very progressive as junior attorneys are promoted to partners rapidly. This approach is very attractive to young attorneys as this positive structure is not duplicated in many other law firms. Cox Yeats’ strong body of young attorneys also provide a solid base for the future of the firm. “The key ingredient for making someone to fit at Cox Yeats is in the pursuit of excellence and wanting to be being the best that they possible can. We try to create an environment where a person can live up to their potential,” explains Jackson.
Cox Yeats’ signature strategy is to place professionals into specialised teams concentrating on particular fields who then connect directly with the clients. The teams also draw on other teams’ expertise, which creates much attention to detail and vibrant “cross-pollination” that makes the firm a “true life partner” for clients. There are seven teams with two teams concentrating on Construction and Engineering, two teams concentrating on Property, a team focusing on Corporate Law and Natural Resources, a team focusing on Labour and the remaining team focusing on business rescue and company reorganisations.
Each team has its own structure and unique personality. The teams allow for a pooling of skills and a co-operation of thought and action that has resulted in a high quality of service both in respect of response time and expertise. Each matter may have more than one area of law involved and of significance is that the attorneys are all open to others drawing on their respective expertise to find solutions. Says Jackson, “I think that the reason why we are successful is that we have some incredible people. We have merely 50 professionals collectively working together to solve a problem. We achieve amazing things.”
As Cox Yeats is about people, the firm values the relationships that the firm has built with its clients. Consequently, many of the Cox Yeats’ clients have been with the firm for more than 30 years. A focus of the senior partners is to introduce younger attorneys to key people within organisations so that these relationships may be maintained going forward. This strategy ensures that Cox Yeats stays connected to its clients at all levels.
Central to the approach of doing things differently, is an emphasis on building relationships by getting to know the client, their business and the problem they may be facing. Cox Yeats does not have a ‘one size’ for all approach but finds the best solution for each situation. The attorneys attempt to sort out each problem based on the needs of the client rather than subscribing a solution. Cox Yeats goes beyond the immediate problem and looks at the bigger picture to see how the solution will impact the organisation as a whole to understand how they can help clients going forward. “I think this is what clients’ value in their interaction with Cox Yeats,” explains Jackson.
The last few years have brought much change to the legal and business profession while technology has made it necessary for lawyers to adapt in the way they practice. Jackson says that the firm has recognised not only the need to keep abreast of the times but to keep focused on what is clearly the most important element of their operation – the needs of the client. Cox Yeats intends to remain awesome…