South West firm Clarke Willmott & Clarke is making one partner and 34 other staff redundant following the decision to close its loss-making volume conveyancing unit
Partner Angela Thompson, one other solicitor, two legal executives and 31 support staff, all based at the firm's last remaining satellite office at Bridgwater in Somerset, will be made redundant. Thompson, who has been with Clarke Willmott for 18 years and headed up the dedicated volume conveyancing unit, is set to join Battens of Yeovil. The unit has only operated at Clarke Willmott for around three years. Whether or not Thompson will take staff with her has yet to be decided. The Bridgwater office will be closed and around 10 mainstream legal services staff in the firm's debt collection practice are being relocated to Taunton.
"The nature of the market has meant that the Bridgwater unit has operated at a loss and there is no prospect of making an acceptable profit" David Sedgwick, Clarke Willmott
The Bridgwater closure and withdrawal from the volume home conveyancing market are the final steps in a business plan that has already seen the closure of satellite offices in Crewkerne, Yeovil and central Taunton. Clarke Willmott now has two purpose-built centres at Bristol and Taunton. One insider said that the firm had decided against making the degree of investment necessary to generate a good return from the volume conveyancing unit. "Every law firm has to look at the investment opportunities open to it and assess them," said the source. The unit had been facing competition from major national practices such as Shoosmiths, the source added. Clarke Willmott managing partner David Sedgwick said: "At a time when home conveyancing in the UK has become a price-driven 'commodity market', the volume conveyancing unit has achieved significant growth since being set up. "The nature of the market, however, has meant that, despite this growth, the Bridgwater unit has operated at a loss and there is no foreseeable prospect of making an acceptable level of profit from the operation." Sedgwick said that the unit did not fit with the firm's overall strategy. "Indeed, to continue underpinning that unit could weaken the success of the rest of our business and undermine the efforts of staff who are building that success," he said.