Twelve months ago in Liverpool, a new kind of niche firm was born. Sue Mawdsley and Frank Maher left Weightman Vizards to set up a risk management consultancy called Legal Risk. They claim its principal aim is to save its clients money. “Our main focus is on helping firms save more than they spend. We saved one firm half a million pounds last year,” says Maher.
Legal Risk specialises in money laundering regulations, compliance and professional indemnity, particularly in terms of successor practices (eg Garratts in the case of Andersen Legal). “Law Society rules have come to mean that successor practices are liable to meet inherited claims,” explains Maher. “We have a lot of interest from clients in this area, as professional indemnity is a serious overhead for law firms.”
Legal Risk was founded on the back of the two partners’ combined experience of some 1,000 solicitors’ defence claims. Maher says: “Setting up the new firm was really a case of rebranding and reselling the same aspects Sue and I had already been working with, with a view to delivering to clients something different while saving them money.”
He points out that, after 20 years advising insurers, it had became apparent that the volume of claims was going down. For the second half of his career, he was interested in doing something more innovative using his and his partner’s skill base. He and Mawdsley, who claim to share a desire for a challenge, decided to use professional indemnity and commercial litigation expertise to set up on their own.
Legal Risk may be based in Liverpool, but much of the work is London-focused and it is pitched as a national practice. The wide geographical reach is a bonus for those clients who would prefer to seek help off-patch. After all, as Maher points out, “people do tend to come to us with their pants around their ankles”.
The firm has ambitious plans for the future. Having secured the interest of 11 of the top 100 national law firms, it is in the process of securing the twelfth. It is also actively looking at recruitment. “I say you can really only get bigger, not smaller. For instance, we might consider hiring an accountant to advise those middle-tier firms that don’t have financial director capacity,” says Maher. Legal Risk has also recently launched an automated web-based diagnostic tool to help cut other firms’ costs, as well as a manual on money laundering.
These are early but exciting days for Legal Risk. “Being in charge of everything and building it up has been really empowering,” Maher points out. “We’re free to act whenever we see an opportunity.”
Total number of partners
Total number of lawyers
Main practice areas
Professional indemnity, risk management and white collar crime
Major professional indemnity insurers and law firms