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Why esphr?

It’s our mission to help HR professionals transform their Employee Relations capabilities and drive commercial change within their organisations. 

For years, HR teams have self-created service programmes to tackle mounting ER caseloads – typically via an HR helpline for generic, non-commercial and non-strategic day-to-day advice – an online portal of downloadable HR documents and a law firm to escalate complex queries to.  

All this can lead to an expensive, fragmented and inefficient way of working. 

Busy HR professionals required a solution that brought specialist employment law expertise and ER technology together, so they could spend less time firefighting operational HR headaches and more time prioritising projects to drive meaningful change.

Introducing esphr

Spotting a significant gap in the market, esphr was established to help HR professionals position ER as a key strategic driver for positive transformation throughout their organisations. 

As a new-model employment law firm and ER technology business, we provide integrated support services, including a dedicated legal advisory team, online HR resources, learning and development tools, and access to market-leading ER case management software – all for a fixed annual subscription fee. 

Today, we are one of the UK’s first Alternative Business Structure (ABS) employment law firms built around people, processes and technology. We have successfully assisted over 700 UK businesses and sector-specific organisations spanning the NHS, Education, Technology, and Manufacturing sectors. 

Our legal advice is provided by lawyers at ESP Solicitors LTD who are active members of the Law Society, Industrial Law Society and the Employment Lawyers Association. 

ESP Solicitors is ranked as specialist employment lawyers in both the Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 UK guides to law firms.

Our ethos

We deliberately do not try to be all things to all people. ESP Solicitor’s team of talented and highly experienced lawyers deal only with employment law, an area which is complex and constantly evolving. They are true specialists, combining an enthusiastic approach with strong commercial advice and a commitment to quality. 

ESP Solicitors take pride in offering: 

  • Practical advice 
  • Commercial recommendations, with no ‘fence sitting’ 
  • Pre-emptive, not reactive advice 
  • Concise recommendations, rather than legal ‘essays’ 
  • Meticulous preparation 
  • Integrity in our advice 
  • Close team working, both with you and among ourselves.

Our values

  • Excellence: Our team possesses exceptional skills and knowledge, setting a standard for excellence in everything we do. 
  • Integrity: We serve as critical friends to our clients, ensuring honesty, transparency, and ethical conduct. 
  • Approachable: We pride ourselves on being easy to deal with, responsive, and down-to-earth. Recognizing that the quality of our relationships with each client facilitates the management of employment law issues, we take pride in our reputation for providing robust, high-quality commercial advice.

We know that the quality of our relationships with each client is paramount to simplifying the management of employment law issues. We take pride in our reputation for consistently delivering strong, high-quality commercial advice. 

We aim to build strong and lasting relationships by working to understand your needs and by delivering a high-quality service. This commitment to excellence extends to our experienced support staff, who work hard to getting to know each of our clients, understanding their businesses and providing a service that meets individual requirements. 

We offer competitive rates for different types of work including fixed fees. Please see Our costs, for more details. 

Crown Commercial Service Supplier

ESP Solicitors is one of 42 law firms who were appointed to the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Wider Public Sector Legal Services Panel (contract RM3788) from October 2018 to September 2022. We are delighted to have recently been appointed to its successor agreement, the Public Sector Legal Services agreement (RM6240), until 2026. We are one of the preferred suppliers for employment law. 

The story so far...

From our humble beginnings as a one-person vision for the HR services market to launching an award-winning Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) approved law firm and rolling out revolutionary ER technology solutions, we hope you enjoy some of our many milestones along the way. 


esphr is founded in Albury, Surrey, by Pete Byrne.


As we employ our two staff members, Hardings Estate Agents in Windsor becomes our first customer.


With 50 customers on our books, and another two employees added, our modern business model and swift growth starts to get noticed more within the HR marketplace.


We sign up our first very large corporate customer and begin supporting an in-house HR team comprising of 1,000 staff. APRIL
Our first round of £100,000 funding comes in from Finance South East to help us further continue our business journey. SEPTEMBER


A total of 100 customers are now on our books, as well as two more employees, and turnover doubles year-on-year. JANUARY


We are now at 200 customers and turnover continues to increase by over 30% each year. JANUARY


A duo of new recruits come onboard as we secure a second round of £100,000 in funding from Finance South East. JANUARY


LiveHRDocs is launched, providing a unique document creation, storage and auto-updating software solution. JANUARY


Reaching the 250-customer milestone, our turnover still grows at over 30% a year as we employ more staff to support our growth. JANUARY


We breakthrough the £1 million turnover barrier. MARCH
Moving into larger offices – with a bigger workforce – in Woking, Surrey, we begin to need our own HR manager as we grow! MAY


Establishing a strategic partnership with Ward Hadaway to further strengthen our employment law advisory provision, the creation of an ‘esphr team of specialist employment lawyers’ is born. MAY
ESPHR Information Services Ltd is launched, offering bespoke HR administration and information software solutions to employers. OCTOBER
Our first FCA-regulated company, ESP Safeguard Ltd, soon follows – established to provide specialist Employment Tribunal insurance cover to customers. DECEMBER


Developing call reporting software, we bring this to the market to enable ESP legal advisors and businesses to access real-time information on all ER queries. SEPTEMBER


We welcome our first in-house employment lawyer as we continue to strengthen our legal reputation. JULY

To mark our 10th anniversary, our whole team is taken on an all-inclusive trip to Marrakesh!



A second legal advisor is employed – a qualified solicitor with over 10 years’ experience. JANUARY
ESP Law Ltd is established as we begin the process of becoming approved by the SRA as an ABS law firm. MARCH
We sign up our single largest customer boasting 10,000 staff and 1,800 retail outlets throughout the UK. JUNE
Following a major upgrade to our core online HR resources portal, we begin to look and feel market-leading, and this is only the beginning… JULY
It would not be a company celebration without an all-inclusive trip. This time it is Tenerife as a reward for smashing our 2014 targets! DECEMBER


Breaking through the £1.5 million turnover barrier, we also achieve more than £1 million of recurring annual subscription revenues. MARCH
Great news! ESP Law is licensed and approved by the SRA. MAY
ESP Law starts trading – a massive step forward in becoming the new-model employment law firm we have always talked about. SEPTEMBER


We employ our third legal advisor from DLA Piper – another qualified solicitor with over 10 years’ experience. FEBRUARY
Signing up more major brands, we are asked to tender for one of the largest corporate mergers in the UK this year. MARCH
The new esphr branding is unveiled and our new website launches. MAY
Another highly qualified employment solicitor joins our ranks, bringing over seven years’ of legal experience. JULY
We are shortlisted in the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards 2016 in the ‘Excellence in Client Service’ category. AUGUST
Our expertise is requested to tender for an outsourced ER service for a business with over 14,000 employees. SEPTEMBER
We welcome a health and beauty retail giant as a new customer. OCTOBER


We post our best set of financial results to date. MARCH
Having smashed our new business targets, we book a summer stay for our team at the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa retreat as a thank you. APRIL
Signing up £1bn turnover housebuilder Keepmoat Ltd, we also bring in Scriba PR to help tell our story and drive more strategic ER conversations in our industry. MAY
A leading global food company comes on board as we run our first customer networking and training day – a mock Employment Tribunal event in London which attracts over 80 attendees. JUNE
We are shortlisted for ‘Employment Law Firm of the Year’ in the Personnel Today Awards and appointed as ER advisors to the Ladbrokes Coral-merged businesses – comprising of 25,000 employees. JULY
For a second successive year, esphr is a finalist in the Law Society Excellence Awards for the ‘Excellence in Client Service’ category. AUGUST
Greene King plc appoints us as its employment law advisory team to help support over 44,000 staff. OCTOBER
A highly qualified solicitor, with more than 15 years’ experience, joins us to further bolster our legal expertise. DECEMBER


Another premium business signs-up – this time a clothing brand with 350 staff. MARCH
With turnover up by 50%, we also achieve 110% of our top tiered target – smashing our year-end financial targets! APRIL
We are appointed as group-wide advisors for a major FTSE 250 hospitality company. MAY
Signing up a 4,000-employee financial regulator and a well-known 1,000-strong water utilities company, we also run a live disciplinary training event for 50 VIP customers at BPP Law School in London. JUNE
UK-leading recruitment firm Randstad joins us and, for the second year in a row, we are shortlisted for ‘Employment Law Firm of the Year’ in the Personnel Today Awards. JULY
Continuing our fantastic awards streak, we are a finalist in the Law Society Excellence Awards for a third successive time. In addition, we sign up a major London publishing firm with 1,000 staff. AUGUST
We recruit a senior solicitor with 10 years’ experience and a legal background which includes working for the UK’s number one national road transport law firm. SEPTEMBER
Jet-setting to an all-inclusive holiday to Tenerife, the team celebrates eclipsing our 2017/18 financial targets! OCTOBER
In categories that sound like they made for us, we are shortlisted for TWO awards in ‘ABS of the Year’ and ‘Boutique Law Firm of the Year’. DECEMBER


An outsourced business comprising of 27,500 staff joins the esphr journey as we are highly commended for the ‘Boutique Law Firm of the Year’ at the Modern Law Awards. 350 staff. JANUARY
Tracking our immense growth, rail operator LNER signs up with a 3,500-strong workforce as well as a leading IT regulator. MARCH
Another record-breaking year-end performance! Turnover up by 18% and we achieve 130% of our top tiered target. APRIL
We did it! Scooping the Future of Legal Services Innovation accolade at the Legal Week Innovation Awards, it is another exciting month as we also land a leading charity – with 11,000 staff spanning 37 countries. MAY
As well as integrating marketing automation technology – to better understand our audience – we also launch our market-leading ER case management system MyHRCases with 1-click employment law integration. JUNE
Third time is a charm as esphr is again shortlisted for ‘Employment Law Firm of the Year’ at the Personnel Today awards. JULY
Our Konica Minolta case study goes live, highlighting how we helped the organisation navigate a challenging period of evolution, outsourcing and redundancy. OCTOBER
We host our #ESPLawLive event in London, helping HR professionals tackle workplace grievance and sexual harassment in the #MeToo era.
It is a double-header of case studies as industry heavyweights Randstad and Countryside Properties discuss our ER credentials.
We publish ourGreene King case study, which looks at our role in helping the UK’s leading pub retailer to uphold its 200-year-old reputation.
We also round off the year having secured 72 pieces of media coverage – reaching a potential audience of 2.7 million people. Thanks, Scriba PR


We launch our ER white paper ‘Seven key challenges In-house ER teams face in 2020’ – which is still available to download for free.
In the same month, we were also shortlisted in the ‘Legal Services Innovation’ category ahead of the LexisNexis Awards.
The team is highly commended in the ‘ABS of the Year’ category at the Modern Law Awards, and our Boy’s Brigade case study is published – looking at how we helped a Christian youth organisation find the integrated HR support they were looking for. FEBRUARY
Coronavirus takes hold – and we begin real-time briefings on the latest developments – including Q&As on the CJRS and critical advice for employers in their time of need.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we provide UK businesses with more than 800 hours of employer-based advice –a record number of enquiries and a 60% increase compared to time logged in the same month last year.
Our latest case study goes live, this time from international ventilation product supplier, Volution Group and how we became ingrained in their HR department. APRIL
Our thought leadership piece on HR legacy systems goes to print in theHRDirector.
We also announce a hat-trick of new starters for the ESP Law team
The summer saw us continue to produce – and update – our range of Coronavirus Q&As on our blogto keep helping employers to navigate the Covid-19 crisis. JUNE
This month marked the first of our ER technology blog series – kickstarting with why it’s often the forgotten HR module. JULY
Senior solicitor,Charlotte Ashton, joins the ESP Law team following an established background in immigration law. AUGUST
Our collaboration with the Broker Network (HR Consultancy Team) goes live as our latest customer case study. SEPTEMBER
HR Magazine publishes Pete Byrne’s thought leadership feature on how employee relations (ER) is the secret to a ‘happy marriage’ between HR and employment law. OCTOBER


As businesses continue to recover, our latest case study delves into how we helped experienced telemarketing business DJST navigate mass redundancy during Covid-19. FEBRUARY
Our journey towards further mid-market expansion continues – we announce esphr is formally part of Marlowe plc. Joining as the group’s leading SRA-regulated law firm, we continue to provide best-in-class employment law advice and ER technology solutions. MARCH
Growing our customer base even further, we sign a multinational media and digital marketing communications company to empower its ER strategy and upskill the HR team’s employment law knowledge. APRIL
It was a record financial Q1 having added another two organisations to our roster – one a leading provider of investment management and the other an independent letting agency MAY
More than 350 delegates tuned in to our latest #ESPLawLive VIP webinar on ‘understanding the Right to Work changes’, hosted by senior solicitors Charlotte Ashton and Charlotte Morris. JUNE .
Suzanne Wrench joins ESP Law as an associate solicitor possessing 16 years’ PQE. Alongside private and public sector expertise, Suzanne’s skills include TUPE transfers support and managing the defence of tribunal claims – including applications to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. JULY
On October 4 we officially co-branded with a newly-launched division within Marlowe plc called WorkNest. Made up of long-established, specialist companies – including Ellis Whittam and Law At Work – the organisation helps companies to manage all its employment, safety and wellbeing challenges. OCTOBER

This month we launched our latest free guide: ‘7 employee relations (ER) priorities an HR leader must focus on in their first 90 days’. This downloadable document includes an array of industry insight and guest contributions from esteemed HR professionals, for HR professionals moving into a new leadership role.


We teamed up with our customer Epping Forest District Council for a detailed case study about its People Team’s success. Read how esphr helped improve its in-house ER capability and prioritise employee welfare via rich data and legal expertise.



CEO Pete Byrne put pen to paper to draft a thought leadership feature for theHRDirector. For this particular piece, Pete writes about the importance of having a data-driven culture, and why he believed it would be one of the biggest HR trends in 2022.


At the end of February, we said a fond farewell to CEO and founder Pete Byrne, following 17 years at the helm. Following the successful acquisition by Marlowe plc, Pete knew the time was right to step aside and hand the reins over to the next-generation management team at WorkNest.


Just before Pete exited, he left with the news that he had been shortlisted in the Legal Week Innovation Awards in the ‘Lifetime Contributor to Innovation (Supplier)’ category. Not long after, esphr was also announced as a Modern Law Awards finalist in the ‘Client Care’ section following our long-established work with Entain.



Following the hugely successful immigration practice built by our Head of Immigration, Charlotte Ashton 185 attendees joined the esphr Lunchtime Express Webinar ‘EU Reform Bill | Key Predictions for HR’.


ESP Law Ltd merges with Cater Leydon Millard Ltd (“CLM”), a fellow SRA regulated law firm from within the WorkNest group. This merger brings together two exceptional law firms, providing clients with the combined authority and resources that such scale brings. The law firm now trades under the CLM name under the esphr brand. 


Our collaboration with Speedy Asset Services goes live as our latest client case study. 


Over the early part of 2023 we commissioned research by an expert market research company into the experiences of middle managers and ER issues. The research gave us insightful date into knowledge gaps within the middle manager community and the pressure this puts on HR teams. We have continued to interpret the data and publish the findings via white papers and seminars our findings to help our HR community help equip their businesses for the future.


Our Middle Managers Matter research on supporting fertility challenges in the workplace is picked up by the HR Review and Healthcare Newsdesk (BBC News) 


We teamed up with Greene King to host a mock tribunal in London. Sarah Dillon and Beverley Smith from esphr ran the event, alongside barristers from St. Philips Chambers



A collaboration with Vista Employers Services Ltd sees Sarah Dillon and Vicky Roberts host an ‘Insight Session’ webinar to present our findings from our Middle Managers Matter white paper series. ‘Enhancing ER through Middle Managers: From Research to Action’ is attended by 157 live delegates


Our SRA regulated law-firm, Cater Leydon Millard Limited, is renamed as ESP Solicitors Ltd to align them with the esphr family. We are excited to continue our valued relationship with clients under this new chapter 


Do not just take our word for it.

Here are some of our recent industry accolades...

The Employment Services Partnership Ltd (ESP)

Offering online HR resources, a market-leading ER case management system (MyHRCases) and elearning support services

ESP Solicitors

An SRA regulated law firm offering employment law advice and training, as well as employment tribunal case management services. All of esphr’s services are provided by the lawyers at ESP Solicitors.

ESP Safeguard Ltd

FCA regulated general underwriting agency business offering specialist employment tribunal insurance

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