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Personal injury firms have faced huge upheaval as a result of the Jackson reforms. Here Bott & Co explains how it is responding.
Lord Justice Jackson
In the wake of the Jackson reforms, personal injury firms are having to take a hard look at their models to ensure continued survival. A firm which has done just that is Bott & Co.
The firm saw turnover drop by 10 per cent between 2011/12 and 2012/13, from £12.9m to £11.6m. But senior partner David Bott says last year was a transformative one for the firm, which secured an ABS licence in September.
“The main thing that’s happened between then and now is there’s been a huge amount of agitation in the personal injury market,” Bott points out. “Most personal injury firms will say that it’s been a tough year.”
Applying for an ABS meant that Bott & Co had to restructure its partnership. Previously, Bott himself was the only lawyer partner, but practice manager Paul Hinchliffe and finance director Gary Froggatt are now also partners. Hinchliffe has become managing partner and Froggatt finance partner.
Bott says the move is not the last development for Bott & Co, and the firm is now planning to become a limited company.
“With all the changes that are afoot, the flexibility of being a limited company will assist,” he says. “It allows the flexibility of potential investment.” He adds that while the firm has no plans to seek external investment immediately, if an investor made an approach it would be considered.
“Everything this year is about making sure that we’re incredibly efficient,” he continues. “After 12 years of iterative changes we’re now sitting down and starting all over again – the process of how we meet clients, deal with clients, what’s a successful outcome for clients, how much we litigate and how much we don’t litigate.”
As a result, lawyers are being moved to a later stage in the client relationship process in favour of other staff.
“We had a model where you’d speak to your lawyer from start to finish. Now we’re moving to a model where you’ll speak to the client capture team in the first instance. It’s all about getting the right person doing the right thing at the right time,” Bott says.
While the firm waits for its second ABS licence – to become a limited company – to go through, it is also working on the implementation of a new practice area. Expanding from personal injury, Bott & Co introduced a flight delay claims unit, which is handling claims from passengers who are due compensation under the EU directive governing the airline industry.
Bott says the move is all part of the changing shape of the personal injury market, with slowly reducing fees forcing firms to move into new sectors.
“All you can ever do is be as profitable and as efficient as possible,” Bott concludes.