Legal Business Blogs

Blood from a stone: Walker Morris withdraws from personal injury market as Co-op Legal announces PI job cuts

The post-Jackson reforms have claimed further victims as Leeds-based Walker Morris has announced it is to close its personal injury (PI) business, while Co-operative Legal Services has confirmed its personal insurance division is undergoing a restructuring which is likely to result in around 60 job cuts.

Around 48 staff are at risk of redundancy as a result of the closure at LB100 firm Walker Morris’ PI arm, named Distinctly Legal, with the firm blaming ‘the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) changes and the continuing turmoil in the personal injury marketplace.’

In a statement the firm said of the division, which was formerly known as WM Claims: ‘Over the last 12 months the firm has sought to refocus its personal injury business by investing in a rebrand and a “direct to market” approach.

‘The refocus has not achieved the results that we anticipated. This combined with continuing uncertainty in the market and the inevitable shift towards a more process, volume-driven approach, has led the firm to conclude that continued involvement in the PI market does not fit with its long-term strategy.’

Managing partner Ian Gilbert (pictured) added: ‘Despite having a very capable and committed team within Distinctly Legal, unfortunately the significant structural changes which have occurred in the PI market recently and those changes which we believe will occur in the future, have led us regrettably, to conclude that this is not a market in which Walker Morris can differentiate itself as well as building a strong recognisable brand. We have therefore decided to withdraw from the PI market and focus on our successful core business.’

Meanwhile, high-profile ABS Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has also confirmed that it is to make around 60 redundancies in its 140-strong personal injury division.

A spokesperson for CLS said in a statement: ‘We have announced a restructuring of our personal injury division and a formal consultation with staff will begin in the New Year.

‘We are keen to consult with colleagues in the first instance and are unable to provide further details at this stage.’

In September, CLS posted a £3.4m loss in the for first half of 2013, with the group’s recently installed general counsel Alistair Asher telling Legal Business that CLS was still in its infancy and would flourish, provided it has the appropriate levels of investment. The loss comes despite turnover in the Co-op’s legal arm growing by 5.8% on last year to £18.1m.

Earlier this month, Clifford Chance (CC) was handed a role advising the ailing Co-operative Bank on its recapitalisation as the bank prepares to float next year. The Co-op has been in negotiations since it emerged in June that its bank had a £1.5bn capital deficit due to non-performing loans.

These latest announcements follow news last week that Bristol-based Lyons Davidson is to make around 50 redundancies, despite signing joint venture deals with the AA and Admiral – again laying the blame on the post-Jackson litigation market.