Herts firm enters administration after failing to secure PII cover

Herts and Bedfordshire firm HilliersHRW has gone into administration after the firm was unable to pay for professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover.

The firm appointed FRP Advisory partners Tony Wright and Philip Watkins as administrators earlier this month (9 December) when it was unable to secure cover. It had already transferred its existing work in progress (WIP) to a range of other firms in the area.

The closure affects its 34 people, including eight fee earners and support staff, many of whom have moved to surrounding firms. Family head Neil Remnant departed for JMP Solicitors and commercial property consultant Kirsten Rimmer has moved to Kimbells Freeth.

The firm has kept seven members on during the initial administration process.

HilliersHRW entered the extended indemnity period for PII cover on 30 October and went into a 60-day cessation period (9 October 2013), during which it was allowed to continue work for existing clients but not take on new work.

If the firm had managed to secure cover before the end of the year it could have avoided closure but with the 29 December deadline looming, it has shut up shop.

It marks the second firm in three months to have shut after finding themselves unable to secure cover. In October Harris Cartier was sold in a pre-pack administration to Hull-based firm Neil Hudgell and Gordon Dadds because it was unable to obtain insurance (14 October 2013).

Both acquiring firms took on £800,000 of debtors between them and more than £4m in WIP, but the firm’s creditors are likely to suffer a shortfall in  returns after the firm racked up £5m in debts.

Neil Hudgell also bought a six-figure personal injury caseload from HilliersHRW in February 2013, its fourteenth acquisition in just 24 months.

Since 2011, the firm has completed 20 deals totalling £4m, including the purchase of four legal practices. Earlier in the month it opened a London office on the back of the purchase of Harris Cartier’s PI work and plans to expand further (3 December 2013).

Last month, Chadwick Lawrence became the latest outfit to sell off its PI book, selling the business to Slater & Gordon, just weeks after Morgan Cole transferred its Bristol-based volume claims and catastrophic injury insurance teams to DAC Beachcroft. 

Chadwick Lawrence’s managing partner Jeremy Garside had said: “It’s widely reported that over 2,500 legal firms in the UK are estimated to be in difficulties, often due to their inability to adapt to the challenging reforms in the legal industry.”

In October, the SRA said 185 firms had applied to enter the extended indemnity period before the deadline and said if 153 of those failed to find PII cover before 29 December they would have to close (31 October 2013).

This is the first year for the newly implemented PII regime introduced in an effort to stabilise the market. The 29 December could reveal a raft of firms set for closure when the deadline runs out.