National firm Slater and Gordon today denied speculation that it is in talks with any firm over a possible merger. The firm this week announced it was splitting its business into two and making changes at the top of the organisation - but it said there was ‘no truth’ in any rumours about a potential link with another top 50 firm.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are making some organisational changes to better reflect the operating environment and to ensure the business is set up to support our two main legal departments – essential legal services and specialist legal services – in the most effective way.’
Essential legal services will incorporate the customer onboarding team, fast-track RTA and ELPL, Scotland and specialist PI subsidiary Jigsaw.
Specialist legal services includes family, employment and travel alongside the existing specialist remit which includes RTA and ELPL multi-track, clinical negligence, industrial disease, abuse & public inquiries, military, travel, Compass Costs and Court of Protection.
David Whitmore will retire as chief executive in the summer and will take on a non-executive, advisory role. Nils Stoesser, currently chief financial & operating officer will become chief executive as of Friday.
Whitmore had been at the forefront of the firm’s regeneration after cutting ties with its parent company in Australia in 2018. He pursued what he called an ‘aggressive growth strategy’, based on new technology, to regain the firm’s market share.
The Whitmore era also marked the closure of smaller offices and reduction in the number of fee earners. Group accounts published this year showed that the pre-tax deficit in calendar year 2020 climbed to £18m, up from £9.6m the previous year. Income fell from £192.9m in 2019 to £158.1m, a decline attributed to Covid-19 and a £20m dip arising from the firm’s decision to exit medical reporting and rehabilitation services.
The number of fee earners fell from 743 to 650 in the year to December 2020, although the firm added almost 100 support staff.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has refused Slater and Gordon permission to challenge the High Court’s decision to find against it in claims over deductions from personal injury damages.
Mr Justice Ritchie last month ruled that claims brought by checkmylegalfees.com should not be stayed and did not require security for costs. He also ruled that Slater and Gordon should answer Part 18 questions on commissions allegedly received on ATE insurance policies and should hand over audio and written files relating to the sign-up process for 10 test claimants.
Lord Justice Warby said the judge’s ruling was ‘entirely reasonable’ on whether the claims should be stayed and that an appeal would have no realistic prospect of success.
He added that there was evidence to support the claimant’s assertion that Slater and Gordon received secret commissions from ATE insurers and the judge had given ‘full and persuasive reasons’ for requiring further answers. If secret commissions were received it is possible the firm might have to pay refunds to former clients.
It is understood Slater and Gordon is obliged to provide copies of documents by the end of this week. These include client and office account ledgers, time recording system records, all call recordings and screen shots of the e-sign process.