The former legal director of Stobart Barristers - who once described traditional legal aid firms as ‘wounded animals waiting to die’ - has snapped up a high-profile criminal defence practice, the Gazette can reveal.
Trevor Howarth left Stobart in April 2014 to concentrate on One Legal, which he jointly founded in 2013 with employment barrister Tim Edge.
Today, the Manchester firm announced that it has completed a deal to acquire Kaim Todner Solicitors, which represented ‘Pentagon hacker’ Gary McKinnon.
Kaim Todner will operate under the name Kaim Todner as part of One Legal. No figure was released on the value of the deal.
Last month Kaim Todner managing director Karen Todner (pictured) announced that the firm would be ‘moving towards controlled and orderly closure’ in March.
Todner told the Gazette today that she was contacted by One Legal the morning after she posted her news on Twitter.
‘I had various enquiries and interest. This was by far the most appealing to me. It meant that the firm could continue in its present form which I wanted to happen,’ she said.
Under the new deal, Todner will become national head of crime, extradition and regulatory for One Legal.
In today’s announcement, One Legal co-founder and CEO Trevor Howarth said: 'The traditional business model for solicitors is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain.'
He said the deal meant Kaim Todner had ‘effectively rationalised and delegated administrative processes to enable it to reduce and control running costs whilst simultaneously freeing fee-earners to fully focus on what they do best, namely providing prompt, efficient and quality legal services to clients and others within the wider criminal justice system.’
As part of the acquisition, One Legal has provided Kaim Todner a centralised back-office function and ‘bespoke’ IT and case management.
Todner told the Gazette there would be no redundancies. Howarth confirmed that an additional office has been opened in central London for private clients trading under Kaim Todner. Further extradition lawyers and duty solicitors will be recruited.
Kaim Todner made headlines for its part in challenging the government’s procurement process for new criminal legal aid contracts.
The firm is part of the Big Firms Group, whose 37 members carry out around 25% of criminal legal aid work.
The firm was a leading member of the Fair Crime Contracts Alliance, set up to challenge the procurement process via judicial review.
Dealing with the litigation meant Todner, Kaim Todner’s major fee-earner, could not conduct any fee-earning work between October and January.
Todner said: ‘It was not just dealing with lawyers. I was lobbying MPs, going to the House of Lords, all these things in the background that people are not aware of.’
Prior to today’s announcement, Todner said the prospect of closing her firm was ‘frightening’.
‘Run-off insurance is three times your annual insurance premium. You’ve got to pay for storage of files for six years. I knew there were going to be costs involved but I didn’t realise it was as significant as it would be.’
Todner said there were many criminal firms ‘limping along thinking “how can we get out of this situation?” You’re staying [in this situation] to avoid closing’.
Kaim Todner is One Legal’s first law firm acquisition. Howarth said One Legal was 'actively looking and in talks' with other firms.