Two of the best-known names in the personal injury market are set to disappear after they were acquired by Manchester firm Express Solicitors, as it continues its “march” to become the country’s largest claimant PI practice.
Amelans and Jeffries Solicitors, both Greater Manchester firms, will add around 20 and 50 staff respectively to Express, taking its headcount to about 650.
Amelans was at the forefront of the costs war in the early 2000s, taking the case of Callery v Gray to the House of Lords in 2002, the first time the highest court considered conditional fees.
Its outspoken co-owner, Andrew Twambley, also set up InjuryLawyers4U and the firm was the focus of a 2005 BBC documentary series, No Win, No Fee.
Mr Twambley and finance partner Denise Wilkinson join Express as consultants.
Jeffries Solicitors, which has a turnover of £3m, was set up in 1993 by Michael Jeffries and was one of the founder firms of InjuryLawyers4U. Director Nina Ramsden is moving over as a partner.
Mr Jefferies said: “I am personally at a stage in my career where I’m looking to move onto other projects. We have been incredibly careful when selecting a firm to look after our staff, and the firm’s clients. Finding a firm with the same ethos was a vital factor.”
Express managing partner James Maxey said: “We have worked closely with Amelans Solicitors for many years, and they are very local and dear to us, being based in Didsbury.
“They are a great firm with a trailblazing reputation, with lawyers who like us, are brave enough to challenge the law and create new standards.”
On Jeffries, he added: “We look forward to welcoming the talented staff and will carry on the Jefferies tradition.”
Earlier this year, Express announced its latest record financial year, with group turnover up 13% in 2022 to £36m, a sixth of which was attributable to its medical reporting agency, Ontime Group.
It will soon consolidate its four offices into a new head office, approximately a mile away from its longstanding base in Northenden, after buying the building for £4.4m. It is currently being refurbished.
The 40,000 sq ft space could accommodate 1,000 staff, and Mr Maxey said the firm was “not stopping” in its search for more acquisitions “as we march on towards becoming the number one claimant personal injury firm in the UK”.
Last November, Express acquired Lancashire PI firm Michael W Halsall Solicitors.
Mr Maxey praised the continued support of RBS in its growth. He has previously said he aimed to reach a turnover of £60m within the next five years.
In other PI news, AIM-listed NAHL – which owns National Accident Helpline – yesterday issued a trading update for the first half of 2023 that said group revenues were expected to be slightly ahead of last year at £21m.
“The group’s strategy to invest in new claims in its wholly owned law firm, National Accident Law – which have a long lifecycle but produce higher returns – and the planned reduction in claims still to settle in the joint venture partnerships is expected to result in operating profit of approximately £1.8m versus £2.3m in H1 2022.”
Along with increased borrowing costs due to the rise in interest rates, this was likely to mean NAHL would only break even overall. Net debt continued to fall, from £14.5m at 30 June 2022 to £11.6m a year later.
Chief executive James Saralis said: “We are pleased with the progress the business has made in the first half of the financial year. In line with our stated strategy, we have continued to reduce net debt and settled 178% more claims in the period than last year.
“Whilst the personal injury market remains stagnant, we believe that our industry-leading brand, National Accident Helpline, continues to take market share and our critical care business [Bush & Co] continues to go from strength to strength, issuing 15% more expert witness reports than the same time last year as well as recruiting 40 new associates to meet the growing demand.
“As a result, and notwithstanding the difficult macroeconomic environment, our full year expectations remain unchanged.”
NAHL’s share price rose 6% on the news to 46p.
A Sheffield firm which took on thousands of cases from the collapsed Pure Group has itself filed for administration. According to court records, SSB Group Ltd gave notice of its intention to appoint an administrator on Monday. It is understood the business is in talks over a pre-pack sale as it seeks to avoid an intervention by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
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