Legal Business

The ABS triangle – regulators, consumers and investors


Baker Tilly’s George Bull analyses the changing market.

The recent initial public offering (IPO) of full-service English law firm Gateley and its admission to AIM mark another significant step in the evolution of alternative business structures (ABSs) in England and Wales. While Gateley is the first UK law firm to achieve a public listing, it is not the world’s first listed law firm. That accolade belongs to Slater and Gordon, the Australian consumer law firm, which listed on the Australian stock exchange in May 2007.

Legal Business

Why are there no lawyer-backed MDPs?


With the rise of multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) receiving daily comment in the professional news, this is certainly a question worth asking.

Before adding my own observations to the debate, I should spell out what I am thinking about and what I am not.

For starters, I appreciate that much work of many solicitors’ firms in England and Wales falls outside the reserved areas. As a result, there is a sense in which many law firms are already MDPs. Similarly, I am not thinking about those alternative business structures (ABSs) that, in the course of providing retail legal services, offer ancillary, non-legal services, such as car hire, medical reports, etc.

Legal Business

What if ‘best practice’ is wrong?


Baker Tilly’s George Bull warns of possible flaws

There was once a poster at Watford Junction railway station, just outside London. Advertising the local shopping centre, it read: ‘Little blue dress, little blue dress, my life would be complete if only I could have that little blue dress.’ So it is with best practice: people within a firm readily incline to the view that, if they are adopting best practice, then professional life will be complete. What can possibly go wrong for the firm?

Legal Business

RSM Tenon in administration as three UK firms carve out Challinors


The break-up of debt-laden Midlands firm Challinors took a ‘hunter turned hunted’ twist yesterday afternoon (22 August) after administrator RSM Tenon announced its own debt driven acquisition by rival Baker Tilly.

RSM was appointed in July to oversee the sale of Birmingham-headquartered Challinors’ business, and earlier yesterday announced the sale of parts of the law firm’s commercial litigation, medical negligence and family law practices to Clarke Willmott, Shoosmiths and Cartwright King respectively.

But in a mirror of its professional negotiations, the 35-office troubled accountancy firm was in crisis talks with Tilly and, like so many of the companies it advises, was forced into administration after Tilly pulled out of those talks.Tilly yesterday snapped up its rival in a pre-pack deal, advised by Stephenson Harwood corporate partner Andrew Edge and insolvency and restructuring partner Susan Moore. RSM Tenon was advised by Macfarlanes company law partner Matthew Blows alongside senior counsel Will David and Mark Slade.

The deal will save 2,300 of RSM’s employees but realise no value for its shareholders, including Lloyds Banking Group, advised by Hogan Lovells, which will be left with losses in excess of £80m.

Challinors, meanwhile, has not had the fortune of a wholesale buyer but continues to be broken up following the sale of its personal injury caseload to SGI Legal at the start of the week.

Yesterday it was announced that Clarke Willmott has taken ten members of Challinors’ private client and commercial litigation team into its Birmingham office, while Shoosmiths has strengthened its medical negligence team with eight new appointments led by Challinors’ former head of clinical negligence Richard Bannister. Meanwhile, Cartwright King has hired eight members of staff to join its Birmingham office, the majority of which are family law specialists. The latter group are to take ‘all of their cases with them to Cartwright King,’ according to a firm statement, and will be led by director of the family law practice, Fiona Lazenby.

Stephen Rosser, chief executive at Clarke Willmott said: ‘Growing our Birmingham offering is part of our three year strategy. Our main priority is to ensure a seamless transition for Challinors’ clients and we will be working with the administrators and Challinors’ partners in order to achieve this.’

Shoosmiths head of private client Richard Follis added: ‘This is an important and very experienced team, and their joining demonstrates Shoosmiths’ commitment to this challenging and highly specialist field of work.’ Already we have five medical negligence partners with more than 110 years’ experience between them. There is no substitute for experience in this work and this addition to our team adds breadth and depth to our national offering.’

On 20 August SGI Legal became the first to announce it had bought the personal injury caseload of Challinors for an undisclosed sum – the firm’s first acquisition since it became an alternative business structure on 1 August. However the firm also announced that it had not taken on any members of staff.