London litigation boutique goes under as professional indemnity cover fails

Pinsent Masons has been appointed joint administrator for collapsed litigation and corporate law firm Harris Cartier, which has been sold to two buyers, Gordon Dadds and personal injury firm Neil Hudgell.

The two-office firm was unable to pay its professional indemnity cover on 1 October 2013 and Pinsent Masons and restructuring specialists Zolfo Cooper were appointed joint administrators this afternoon at the Royal Court of Justice. 

Restructuring partner Steven Cottee led on the administration and Simon Wilson, Peter Holder and Anne O’Keefe led from Zolfo Cooper. The firm was sold immediately in a pre-pack administration following their appointment.

The 26-lawyer firm based in Lincoln’s Inn Fields specialises in personal injury claims, corporate commercial transactions, litigation and dispute resolution and the sale to Neil Hudgell marks the latest in that firm’s acquistive drive. It has bought several large chunks of case loads from collapsed firms in recent years, buying up 400 personal injury files from a Yorkshire firm at the end of last year and 200 cases from Birmingham-based firm Ganderton, which closed earlier this month.

Since 2011, Neil Hudgell Solicitors has completed 20 other deals totalling £4m, including the purchase of four legal practices.

Cottee joined Pinsents’ restructuring practice in 2012 from LG and led on the restructuring of Manchester firm Cobbetts earlier this year, which saw Pinsent Masons take home the bulk of a £352,289 legal bill (18 September 2013).

The wind-down cost of the Manchester firm came to a total of £1.7m and almost half of the legal fee went to Pinsents, which billed £169,367 in preparation for the sale. Cobbetts went into administration in February with the bulk of its business taken over by DWF (6 February 2013).

Cottee also advised the administrators of Hextalls, the first City firm to enter in administration in 2009, and acted for Hill Dickinson on its purchase of the Liverpool and Sheffield offices of Halliwells.

Several firms have been wound up this year – one of the most high-profile being Challinors, which went into administration in August, appointing RSM Tenon partners Andrew Hosking and Simon Bonney as joint administrators (23 August 2013).

Preston firm MBO (27 February 2013) and Manchester firm Donns also collapsed earlier this year (8 April 2013) along with Semple Fraser, who filed notice to appiint administrators on 6 March 2013 (11 March 2013).

Law firms have been struggling financially, with The Lawyer reporting last month that firms have been struggling to renew their professional indemnity insurance, forcing firms with fewer than 10 partners into the unrated insurance market (9 September 2013). The SRA said last week that up to 175 firms were at risk of closure after failing to find PII cover this year (9 October 2013).