Melanie Hamer founder partner in Wendy Hopkins Family law practice thinks Cardiff is perfect. Its legal and Business advisory sector, with senior accountants and Lawyers, boasts leading UK and international reputations.
Indigenous legal firms like Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, Capital Law, Hugh James, which all service global clients from Cardiff, and Acuity Legal, are continuing to successfully grow revenue outside of Wales from head offices in Cardiff.
International law firm Eversheds has a significant regional office, while UK-wide firms Morgan Cole and Geldards have their headquarters in Cardiff.
There is also a vibrant business advisory sector with sizeable regional offices for leading players in PwC, Deloitte and Grant Thornton. Corporate finance boutique Gambit has successfully used its Cardiff head office as a springboard for expansion, which has seen it in recent years opening offices in Birmingham and London.
The region is also home to leading financial services firms such as price comparison business GoCompare, Principality Building Society and ING Direct.
Founder partner and director of Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, Melanie Hamer, is not surprised that professional firms in the capital are increasingly growing market share outside of Wales, particularly in London and the south-east of England.
Originally from Aberdare she said: “We are attracting a lot of work from London, due to the fact that we not only offer clients an excellent service, but at a fraction of the cost of rival London firms. There are other niche law firms in Cardiff, not just family law firms, and they are definitely attracting a lot of work out of London.
“There is a myth sometimes that if you want the best you have to go to London and it is just not true. A lot of lawyers that now live and practice in Cardiff were in college and at law schools with some of these lawyers and we know we are as every bit as good as them.”
Around half of her own fee income is generated outside of South Wales.
Melanie said: “London is also only two hours away, although advantages in technology like Skype means we can interact with many clients remotely.”
Having previously worked for Eversheds before setting up the firm in 1996, she is well placed to gauge the quality of the workforce in Cardiff and the wider city-region.
She said: “There is great pool of resources within South Wales and there are excellent candidates coming out of Welsh universities. And we are also finding a growing number of lawyers who started their careers in London relocating to Cardiff not only for career development and a high standard of work, but for a better quality of life.”
Melanie lives with her husband and their two young children on the outskirts of the capital in Pentyrch.
On the capital as a place to live and work she said: “I think it is amazing. I have worked in Cardiff since 1987 when I came back from Guildford (law school) and I have seen it change hugely in that time. It is a beautiful city with great infrastructure like the Millennium Stadium and Wales Millennium Centre for the arts, so we have got absolutely everything you would need out of life.”
As for her favourite places in Cardiff she said: “I love Pontcanna Fields. It is fantastic that we have such a huge open space so close to the city centre. I occasionally go running there in my lunchtimes and it is such a special place.
“I also love Cardiff Bay which is very cosmopolitan with so many great restaurants. The children love it there and the air is so clean. As a family we spend an awful look of time there.”
Melanie, a board member of one of the UK’s oldest business clubs, Cardiff Business Club, feels the city in recent years has developed a more vibrant entrepreneurial culture.
She said: “We have a lot of entrepreneurs in the Cardiff area and it comes back to the fact that our ‘brains’ are as good as anywhere else in the world. We have some great entrepreneurs like Henry Engelhardt of Admiral and Hayley Parsons of Gocompare.com.
“As a business community we also benefit from the Welsh traits of friendliness and nurturing. So as businesses we are genuinely happy to offer each other advice and support.”
As a lifelong Cardiff City fan she is delighted the club is now in the Premiership.
Melanie said: “I had been desperate for Cardiff City to go up having watched them over the last few years nearly getting there. If Swansea is anything to go by in terms of the positive economic spin-off effects, it is going to reap huge benefits for the city.
“Some visiting fans will be coming to Cardiff for the first time and I am sure they will fall in love the city.
“People have said to me, including clients, ‘you don’t know how lucky you are’ living and working in Cardiff… and I have to agree.”