Heald Nickinson duo enter insolvency arrangements

Two partners at Milton Keynes firm Heald Nickinson have entered into individual voluntary arrangements, but they say they have revitalised the firm's fortunes by bringing in fresh blood.

Tim Roberts and Gareth Pobjoy, as well as former senior partner Richard Swan, who has since left the firm, entered into individual voluntary arrangements in May because of financial difficulties.

The firm was saved when its assets were bought by two other solicitors – Patrick Crawley, a partner in the firm, and Martin Banham-Hall, a former partner at Heald Nickinson who had left to set up a sole practice in Bedford.

Crawley and Banham-Hall are now managing partners of the new Heald Nickinson.

Crawley said the new firm had entirely satisfactory financial arrangements.

“Our clients have been very supportive and we will make it our business to see that they continue to receive the very best service,” he added.

He said the financial difficulties of the old firm stemmed from an onerous lease on a large building, a floor of which the firm was unable to let after a sub-tenant went into liquidation. “Our plans for development were very much hindered by this and fresh investment could not be made,” he said.

The new six-partner firm, which specialises in commercial law, will be moving to new premises in central Milton Keynes at the start of September and will also remain practising in Bedford.

The firm was formerly one of three associated but separately-operated Heald Nickinson partnerships, in Camberley, Milton Keynes and London. The association ended when the London office merged with Radcliffes & Co in 1991. The Camberley firm, still operating under the name Heald Nickinson, has also severed links with the Milton Keynes firm.

Individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) are a method by which insolvent individuals can avoid bankruptcy. The procedure was established by the Insolvency Act 1986 and is popular with solicitors because it allows them to continue practising. The flexible agreements usually last three to five years.

The news of the Heald Nickinson partners' IVAs came in the week that the British Chambers of Commerce announced that the number of individual insolvencies remains at a much higher level than before the recession.

The number of IVAs has risen steadily from 1,927 in 1990 to 4,384 in 1995.

Dr Ian Peters, deputy director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “These figures are disappointing. Individual insolvencies in particular continue to stay at levels well above those seen before the recession.”

By contrast, company insolvencies have decreased successively from 21,827 in 1991 to 14,536 in 1995.