Our History

Hempsons - a historical perspective

Hempsons is the UK’s quintessential healthcare law firm.  We are the largest specialist Health and Social Care legal practice in the UK.  The firm has conducted more reported medical law cases than any other two firms combined, and over 70% of those considered by the House of Lords.  The firm also has a ‘top-15’ Third Sector practice, serving charities, social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations.

Hempsons opened for business in 1890.  Its founder, William Ernest Hempson previously worked at Slaughter & May.  The firm was instructed on its first medico-legal case in 1893 – the Collie case by long-time client The Medical Defence Union – and has ever since been an acknowledged specialist in medical and subsequently health law.  During the 1900’s Hempsons also grew a charities practice reflecting in large part the nature of its other specialisation.  By way of illustration the firm acts for many of the Royal Colleges, and the NSPCC became a client in 1944.

The growing firm moved into new offices at 33 Henrietta Street WC2 in 1912, and following further expansion acquired additional accommodation across the road at 12-13 Henrietta Street in 1977.  In 1990 Hempsons opened its second office in Manchester’s Mosley Street.

Dramatic growth occurred in the autumn of 1995 and spring of 1996: first with the acquisition of the legal department of the then NW regional health authority, and with the huge influx of new lawyers the firm moved to new offices in Portland Tower; shortly afterwards Hempsons took on the legal team of the Yorkshire regional health authority and the offices in which they worked at Clarendon House – the start of the firm’s relationship with Harrogate.

In February 2001, we moved our London base to its present home at Hempsons House, 40 Villiers Street – thereby maintaining the firm’s WC2 links. This was followed in March 2003 with moving our Harrogate office into the newly refurbished The Exchange building which rises over the town’s station. Hempsons opened its fourth office, in Newcastle, in September 2009 on the 7th floor of the new West One office development.  By 2011 Hempsons employed over 270 people across the country.   In April 2012 we moved our Manchester office to City Tower in Piccadilly Plaza.

Throughout Hempsons’ London, Manchester, Harrogate and Newcastle offices, every one of our 120 plus lawyers are involved in some way in the Health and Social Care Sector.  Several are dually qualified, for example in medicine, dentistry or nursing.  Others were managers or lawyers within the Department of Health or in the NHS legal departments that became part of our Manchester and Harrogate offices as described above.  All are dedicated to supporting health service organisations and professionals with advice of unrivalled quality and insight, particularly important now given the greatest changes facing the NHS since its inception in 1948.  The Third Sector practice is still thriving with advice including that given to a growing number of social enterprises which are increasingly engaged in delivering services to the Health and Social Care sector.