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Personal injury and conveyancing firm Forster Dean has announced a redundancy consultation with up to 13 jobs under threat.
Chief executive Greg Shields confirmed the redundancy process had started this week. He said it was because of the imminent civil justice reforms recommended in the Jackson Report (3 December 2012).
The firm has 29 offices across the North West and the Midlands and has been vocal in its criticism of the Government’s planned changes to costs and funding arrangements in the personal injury sector.
Lawyers in the sector fear legal aid cuts will see firms drop out of the market and create instability for clients.
Forster Dean has one of the biggest high street presences in the UK.
It is understood that a number of people are opting for voluntary redundancy.
Shields confirmed that the firm is in consultation with 10 solicitors, two legal executives and one non fee-earner.
The Forster Dean model is to have one solicitor and one receptionist in many of its offices, with its IT platform enabling an almost ‘virtual office’ concept.
Shields said the consultation has been “provoked” by the Ministry of Justice.
He said: “We’ll always be idealistic in Forster Dean in fighting to maintain a presence of qualified lawyers in the high street. To succeed we have to be successful as a business and continue to grow.”
The move to cut solicitors is in direct contrast to regional rival EAD, which is based in Liverpool.
The firm announced its ABS conversion this week with plans to develop its clinical negligence and personal injury practice, led by financial director Karen Hosker (8 January 2013).
In a letter to justice minister Helen Grant, Shields and non-executive Bill Docherty predicted a drop of up to 20 per cent in qualified lawyer numbers across the PI sector, causing delays in setling cases and an increase in costs.
Shields led a management buyout of the firm in 2007. In an interview with The Lawyer he revealed that around 80 per cent of staff at the firm are female (1 October 2012).
He has previously said: “I’m concerned about the erosion of access to the law. Not having access to a qualified lawyer in the community puts this country on a path to social unrest.”
The Lawyer’s UK200 figures revealed the £8.4m turnover firm operated with a £1.9m net profit in the last financial year and has 113 staff, 56 fee-earners, and 55 qualified lawyers.