Optima Legal, which is structured along corporate lines as a limited company, was established in 2006 after DLA Piper spun off its volume operation. It debuted in the UK 200 in 2008-09 with a turnover of £30m. Then came the recession. Optima’s property division, which includes a conveyancing group and remortgaging group, was hit hard as its banking clients pulled back from the retail sector. By last year turnover had fallen to £23.1m.
Optima has a six-member management board consisting of non-executive chairman Peter Armstrong, lead litigation partner Phillip Robinson, lead property partner Anthony Ruane, conveyancing head David Duckworth, director of litigation Denise Loney and finance director Mark Buxton.
Staff headcount, which was built up to a high of 708 at the 2008-09 year-end, has fallen to 575. This was in part down to the Solicitors Regulation Authority ordering the firm to reorganise last August after it was found to have overstepped the rules concerning non-lawyer investment in firms through its deal with Capita. As a result the firm has put any post-Legal Services Act plans on hold and is prevented by the watchdog from talking about any long-term ambitions.
Instead Optima has been busy hiring in lawyers in a bid to build its litigation expertise. The firm has increased litigation income from £14.35m at the 2009-10 year-end to £14.53m, with this trend expected to continue.