Legal Business Blogs

Irwin Mitchell’s departing CEO John Pickering points to ‘the changing legal sector’ as Tucker takes over

Irwin Mitchell’s longstanding head John Pickering has pointed to changes in the legal sector for his decision to step down as group chief executive (CEO), as he prepares to leave the firm and the former CEO of the firm’s personal legal services (PLS) division Andrew Tucker steps into the lead role.

Pickering (pictured) will leave Irwin Mitchell after a transitional period of a few weeks, the firm said today (2 April), with plans to pursue non-executive director positions elsewhere, as Tucker stepped into the role on Monday (31 March).

According to a statement from the firm, Pickering’s decision to step down was based on ‘the changing legal sector and his desire for Irwin Mitchell to have a settled senior management in place longer term to drive forward its strategic growth and corporate development plans.

‘He now plans to pursue long-held ambitions for holding non-executive director positions within other businesses,’ the statement added.

Having joined Irwin Mitchell as an articled clerk in 1977, becoming a partner in 1980 and going on to head up the firm’s personal injury practice, Pickering became group chief executive in May 2011 when the firm changed to a corporate structure, having been elected to national managing partner in 2009.

Tucker, who was appointed by the board to the CEO role under the corporate structure, joined Irwin Mitchell as a solicitor in 1985 and became a partner in 1988.

Having become a board member in 1999, he led the firm’s personal injury division from 2009 and in May 2011, following the restructuring of the firm, became chief executive of PLS and a member of both the board of Irwin Mitchell Holdings Ltd and the firm’s executive board.

Chairman of Irwin Mitchell, Glyn Barker said: ‘Having put in place a top class executive team, John believes that the firm should now be led by a chief executive who will lead the organisation over the medium term. Although I personally will miss John a great deal, this is an honourable decision, taken in the long term interests of Irwin Mitchell, and John has my full support.

‘John’s contribution to Irwin Mitchell has been very significant and covered a wide spectrum, from being a top flight personal injury litigator to acting as mentor and coach to many of our partners working at IM today. He has been a key strategic thinker and a driver, and a leader and inspiration to the firm as a whole.’

Announcing the firm’s new group chief executive, he added: ‘As head of PLS, Andrew has already demonstrated his excellent leadership capabilities. His intellect, experience, commerciality and determination will ensure that our firm will continue to prosper, grow and win in the market place over the coming years.

The 700-lawyer firm last week announced that it had secured a £60m four-year finance package with an additional £30m ‘accordion’ facility to replace the bank’s current overdraft with HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland to fund its strategic plan to grow its business ‘substantially’.

This comes after an 18-month period in which Irwin Mitchell became the first multiple-licensed ABS in the UK; announced it would open its ninth regional office in Southampton in April; and completed five acquisitions, including, most recently, Manchester-based volume legal services provider HL Interactive through debt legal services arm Ascent.

Irwin Mitchell’s most recent LLP accounts revealed that debt at the firm rose almost 25% from £13.7m to £17m at the end of last year, while cash at bank and in hand rose from £1.5m to £2.7m in the same period.

Turnover grew moderately, up around 3% from £187m to £192m, while profit available for discretionary division among members remained static at around £24m, with the average number of equity partners having jumped by 54% from 63 at the end of the 2011/12 financial year to 97.