Slater and Gordon says ‘majority’ of UK sites will stay open
Embattled Australian firm Slater and Gordon has stated that the majority of its 27 offices across the UK will stay open even after a cost-saving reorganisation of the business is complete.
The company, which employs around 3,800 people in England and Wales, and Scotland, this week outlined plans to operate centres of excellence in fast-track personal injury, specialist personal injury and general law services.
Details have yet to emerge about what form the new organisation will take and how many staff are affected, but Slater today sought to reassure staff about the scale of changes.
‘Under the reorganisation plan, the majority of our sites will remain open,’ said a spokesman. ‘Where sites are impacted, because the site may be closed or certain practice areas will be impacted, there will be a staged consultation process across the UK.’
Discussions are now starting with all employees at sites that are staying open and may be earmarked for closure.
Where appropriate the firm has said it will ‘help transition’ affected staff to new roles within Slater and Gordon.
The decision follows massive losses during the second half of 2015: the company this week posted a net loss after tax of £492.5m across Australia and the UK.
There has been speculation in the Australian media that the firm will be under pressure to settle cases quickly, with the company required to update on its financial status to lenders by the end of April, with the lenders having the option to call in their loans by next March.
Slater and Gordon has not commented directly on these suggestions, but the firm has insisted the proposed changes will ultimately deliver benefits to clients throughout the UK.
The spokesman added: ‘The reorganisation will not impact on either our service to existing clients nor our ability to service future clients throughout the UK. Consideration has been given to ensure that client claims or legal services are not impacted.’
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has confirmed it is in ‘very regular’ contact with the firm, although a spokesman said this level of interest is routine with the biggest law firms.
The organisation did not comment on speculation about quick settlement of claims, but a spokesman added: ‘Those we regulate have a duty to act in the best interests of clients, protect client money and assets, act with integrity and not allow their independence to be compromised.’
In terms of its share price, the company enjoyed an upturn in fortunes today as the value increased 27% to A$0.33 (17p).
Slater and Gordon faces two potential class actions on behalf of shareholders who have seen the value of their investment fall 95% in the last year.
One of the firms investigating the action, Sydney-based ACA Lawyers, has announced it has secured financial backing from listed Australian funder Justkapital Litigation Finance and London-based Woodsford Litigation Funding.
A spokesman for ACA Lawyers said it has been ‘inundated’ with aggrieved investors who purchased shares between April and December 2015.