Some 29 fee-earners were made redundant last week as national firm Slater and Gordon closed its Leeds office - but that might not be the end of the matter.
The crime and personal injury lawyers were let go as the firm continued to develop its technology and rely more on bigger offices in Liverpool and Manchester.
But the Gazette understands that affected staff are in talks with the firm about the nature of the redundancy process, which began on 11 September. As recently as last November, the firm was stating its commitment to retaining a presence in Leeds even though it was disbanding its noise-induced hearing loss team. The firm says its redundancy process was correct, but it is understood conciliation service Acas has been called in to open talks between affected staff and their former employer.
Commenting on the Leeds closure, a spokesperson said: ‘We have introduced new technology and processes that allow us to work more efficiently and provide a better experience for customers. Consequently, we are closing our Leeds office and relocating the work.’
Leeds was one of several offices to close in the past two years as the firm deals with the legacy of rapid expansion undertaken by its previous owners, the listed Australian firm Slater + Gordon Lawyers.
Another hangover from that period of acquisitions was brought to a close last week as Slater and Gordon settled its claim against Watchstone (formerly Quindell) over its 2015 purchase of the Quindell professional services division for £637m. The settlement was announced just hours before the start of a trial at the Rolls Building.
Slater and Gordon had claimed for the full sale price, alleging breach of warranty and/or fraudulent misrepresentation. That claim has been unconditionally withdrawn, as has Watchstone’s counterclaim over disclosure issues during due diligence.
The settlement provides for £11m of the £50m held in escrow to be released to Slater and Gordon, with the balance of £39m and accrued interest released to Watchstone. No application for costs will be made by either party. Neither party accepts there was a proper basis for either claim.