Irwin Mitchell chief exec Pickering in shock exit

Irwin Mitchell group chief executive John Pickering is to stand down after 37 years at the firm it has been announced today.

Pickering will leave Irwin Mitchell after a transitional period and plans to pursue his ambitions to hold non-executive director positions within other businesses.

The firm’s chief executive for personal legal services Andrew Tucker was appointed to the role of group chief executive with effect from this Monday (31 March).

Pickering joined Irwin Mitchell as an articled clerk in 1977 and became a partner in 1980.

He headed up the firm’s personal injury (PI) practice for 20 years before he replaced Howard Culley as national managing partner in 2009 (20 November 2008).

He became group chief executive two years later, in May 2011. Pickering became chief executive as the firm stated its intention to target growth through mergers and acquisitions once the Legal Services Act (LSA) was implemented in October 2011 (25 April 2011).

Pickering’s exit will come as a shock to the market, speaking at The Lawyer’s Hot 100 management roundtable in January, he gave no indication that he was thinking of leaving and spoke about the transformation of Irwin Mitchell from a professional partnership towards a corporate entity (3 February 2014).

He was at the helm for the appointment of former PricewaterhouseCoopers vice-chairman Glyn Barker as executive chairman designate, succeeding Michael Napier (16 January 2012), and for the approval of the firm’s multiple ABS licenses in later that year (20 August 2012).

Pickering also saw the firm break through the £200m mark for the first time last year, with revenues climbing 5.3 per cent rise from £190.1m to £200.2m (29 July 2013).

The firm’s strategy has faced particular scrutiny after Pickering famously mooted its potential to be the first UK firm to float but to date it is not known to have sought private investment (25 April 2011).

However, the firm did confirm it had secured a £90m funding facility from a trio of banks to support its expansion ambitions last week (27 March 2014).

Pickering was notable only in his absence in the communication of the gargantuan flexible funding facility, with chief financial officer Andrew Merrick taking the lead.

Merrick was appointed to the role in April 2013 from airline and logistics firm Dart Group PLC (12 December 2012).

Tucker joined Irwin Mitchell as a solicitor in 1985 and became a partner in 1988. He then became a board member in 1999 and led the firm’s personal injury division from 2009.

In May 2011, after the firm was restructured Tucker became chief executive of personal legal services PLS and a member of both the board of Irwin Mitchell Holdings Ltd and the executive board.

Commenting on the management changes Barker said: “Having put in place a top class executive team, John believes that the firm should now be led by a chief executive who will lead the organisation over the medium term”.

He said Tucker “has already demonstrated his excellent leadership capabilities” and “played a major role in our continued success through his role on the board”, adding that he had no doubt he would lead the firm to further success as our group chief executive.

Tucker said he and Pickering would “work closely over the coming weeks to ensure that the transition is seamless”.

Pickering endorsed Tucker as the firm’s new leader and added that the group needed a settled management team as it pursued its plans.

“This has been a difficult decision for me because I am deeply committed to the firm,” he concluded.