Distinctive Group

ACUMEN is the law firm with a big heart. CEO Penina Shepherd explains how family values and a genuine sense of community mean everything to her team.

Friendly, down to earth, approachable, and above all, unique.

These terms apply as much to ACUMEN as to Penina herself.

Since launching her business 16 years ago, commercial lawyer Penina has always set out to do things differently.

So, it was out with the ‘fuddy duddy’ image associated with the legal profession, and in with a fresh, unpretentious approach.

Her dynamism has earned official recognition, including a place in the FT’s Top 50 Groundbreaking & Innovative Lawyers in the UK and Europe, a UK Rising Star vote by The Observer, and many local business accolades.

And her refreshingly direct approach has also translated into huge commercial success, with two thriving practices – ACUMEN BUSINESS LAW and ACUMEN PEOPLE SOLICITORS – based in Hove and Crawley.

But while the two firms operate independently, with their own office space, websites and marketing, they share the same ethos, behaviours and values which are key to their continuing success.

And of course, they share ACUMEN’s unique zebra branding, which helps their work stand out as ‘lawyers of a different kind’.

“The zebra is a head turner among the brown and grey of the savannah, and we like to think we stand out in the legal world in much the same way,” Penina explains.

While ACUMEN is doing “fantastically well”, Penina has never lost sight of her original values and the reason why she launched ACUMEN in the first place…. helping people!

Doing the best for people – whether they’re clients, employees or fellow business owners – is her mantra.

ACUMEN’s annual Barn Day

The traditional office hierarchy was never part of ACUMEN’s business plan, and decisions are democratically made by the whole team. However, post-Covid, hybrid working has become mainstream, and Penina noticed a corresponding drop-off in face-to-face contact and discussion.

“Tuesday is our official office day, but while Zoom is a wonderful tool, we are seeing each other much less.

“Direct communication remains extremely important to us, so we recently arranged a wholesome Barn Day where everyone got together at a lovely venue in the countryside.

“We went for a beautiful walk, sat around a fire, had a personality profiling which was funny and fun, and other fun activities.

“It was an amazing day, we all had a great time, and it really reinforced the power of our teamwork and togetherness!”

The Big Fat Greek Club

Penina loves bringing people together outside the office too. “I’ve always had a genuine interest in people, so networking is a big passion of mine.

“I met a fellow business owner and entrepreneur at one of these events. He’s called Kyriakos Baxevanis, and he runs the most amazing Greek restaurant, Nostos, in Hove.

“We were talking about our wonderful business community, and said, “Why don’t we set up a Greek Club to celebrate it?”

From there, the Big Fat Greek Club was born – and naturally, it’s a networking event with a difference.

“There are no guest speakers, no presentations, no formal speeches. It’s a monthly Friday lunch, where our local business community are invited to let their hair down, and enjoy great Greek food, live music and company.

“And as ever, it’s lots of fun. After the first course everyone stands up and moves to another table to the tune of Zorba the Greek. As the song goes faster, everyone has to move quicker too, so it quickly becomes chaotic. Everyone loves it because it’s a chance to relax and have a laugh after a long working week.”

The Club has been a sellout since its first date last September.

Tickets, together with future dates and times, can be found at ACUMENbusinesslaw.co.uk/clubs-and- events/all-events/the-big-fat-greek-club.

ACUMEN Business Convention

Now in its 15th year, the ACUMEN Business Convention is a huge date in the annual Sussex business calendar, featuring 300 local CEOs and decision-makers.

“The Convention is very close to my heart,” Penina points out. “It’s a huge undertaking, organised totally in- house with our usual sense of fun and originality, and it supports a different local charity every year.

“It’s about getting together to make meaningful connections and enjoy great entertainment and inspiration, but without sticking rigidly to one theme.

“We have a Speakers’ Arena where local business heroes share their stories, and big-name, inspirational speakers on the big stage. There’s a lovely sit- down lunch, live entertainment, unique networking sessions – such as our threesome networking room – surprises, and plenty of ACUMEN magic.

“Every year, guests say they met their best client or supplier at the convention, or new collaborations were made.

“This year will be no exception!”

An international star makes an appearance at this year’s convention. Save the date and book your ticket for 23 May 2024 at The Grand, in Brighton.

More details at ACUMENbusinessconvention.co.uk.