Legal Business Blogs

Manchester insurance firm takes on 43-strong team from Parabis as group unravels in administration

Manchester firm Horwich Farrelly has today (24 November) announced it has taken a 43-strong personal injury team from the Parabis Group, including seven partners, just one day after it emerged Parabis is to be broken up and sold in a £50m pre-pack administration deal.

The team move is separate to the administration process. Most of the new additions were previously with defendant firm Greenwoods before its merger with the Plexus Law division of Parabis in 2013, including personal injury partners Malcolm Henke, Rod Evans, Jane Hall and Chris Crook.

Henke will assume the role of head of catastrophic injury and large loss PI for Horwich Farrelly, and will oversee a combined team of more than 50.

Horwich Farrelly partner Ronan McCann said: ‘Malcolm Henke has an enviable reputation in the insurance industry for his approach to catastrophic injury and large loss cases and has been stalked by many of our competitors over the years. His fellow partners and colleagues have handled groundbreaking cases that have set the benchmark for defendant insurance work over the last decade. We immediately gain undeniably market-leading expertise in the catastrophic personal injury area as well as significantly reinforcing our services for lower value motor and casualty claims.’

The additions will increase Horwich Farrelly’s headcount to 660 and ‘strengthen the firm’s geographical reach’, both in London and through the opening of a new office in Southampton to accommodate around 20 former Parabis partners and employees.

One of the first firms to benefit from sweeping liberalisation of the legal services market in 2012, Parabis was placed into a pre-pack administration handled by AlixPartners, in a move is expected to save ‘all but a handful’ of the 2,000 jobs at the company. The series of disposals are reported to potentially raise just over £50m, less than Parabis’s £70m of debt.

One former Parabis partner was critical of how the situation was handled, noting that fixed-share partners were unaware of the problems at Parabis for some time.

‘The firm was sold to venture capitalists at the height of the market but we don’t actually manufacture anything and you can’t sell people. You have to attract high-quality lawyers to deliver a decent service. You can’t be bought and sold like cars, so if people aren’t given the support and infrastructure they need, they go elsewhere.’

However, one of the restructuring professionals close to the Parabis deal said: ‘I would refute that there was anything hidden from people. It had to be an inclusive process as it is a people business and otherwise, the deal would have fallen through. The strategy was clearly communicated to staff on several occasions.’