PERSONAL injury firms have reacted with surprise to trade union practice Thompsons' decision to cull 11 equity partners. Thompsons, which has 55 equity partners and 15 offices, blames the Woolf reforms for the "voluntary" resignations, which, it says, have already been agreed. But rival firms argue it has been top heavy for some time. Thompsons claims that other firms are being shortsighted and have failed to deal with the imminent changes. One partner at a leading personal injury practice says Thompsons has been marketing itself on the basis of price, which is unusual. Another partner, John Pickering, head of the personal injury department at Irwin Mitchell, comments: "We don't expect any downsizing, quite the reverse in fact." Terry Lee, senior partner at Evill & Coleman's personal injury and clinical negligence department, says: "Evills see no need or reason to shed anyone from the personal injury department - either fee-earning or support staff. Bearing in mind that we're a niche practice, we see a pressure on us to recruit." Lee explains: "It surprises me that it has happened now, before the reforms have started to bite and the likely consequences have crystallised." David Marshall, managing partner at Anthony Gold Lerman & Muirhead, says: "We don't know how costs are going to work. In terms of volume of work, it looks like personal injury work will come out of legal aid, which means those [firms] prepared to do work on a conditional fee basis, like ours, may increase in volume." Thompsons partner Tom Jones counters: "If other firms are sticking their heads in the sand, then good luck to them. It is the pure arrogance of the legal profession that says cases can only be dealt with by equity partners. "You wait, in two years' time and you will see other firms making dramatic changes. The only reason they are waiting is because they are looking to see what happens to profits."