Walker Morris to close PI business putting 48 roles at risk

Leeds-based Walker Morris is closing its 48-strong personal injury department, blaming “continuing turmoil” in the personal injury (PI) market.

The move comes just days after Lyons Davidson announced a 50-strong redundancy round, blaming the changes on the effects of the Jackson reforms, which were introduced in April (18 November 2013 ).

Walker Morris said changes caused by the reform programme coupled with the effects of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act had forced it to make the strategic decision to withdraw from the PI market.

“Over the last 12 months the firm has sought to refocus its personal injury business by investing in a rebrand and a ‘direct to market’ approach,” the firm said in a statement. “The refocus has not achieved the results that we anticipated. This combined with continuing uncertainty in the market and the inevitable shift towards a more process, volume driven approach, has led the firm to conclude that continued involvement in the PI market does not fit with its long term strategy.”

Managing partner Ian Gilbert added: “Despite having a very capable and committed team within Distinctly Legal, unfortunately the significant structural changes which have occurred in the PI market recently and those changes which we believe will occur in the future, have led us regrettably, to conclude that this is not a market in which Walker Morris can differentiate itself as well as building a strong recognisable brand.  We have therefore decided to withdraw from the PI market and focus on our successful core business.” 

Under the PI reforms firms are unable to recover success fees from losing parties when operating on a conditional fee arrangement (CFA). The move has meant that many cases are unable to get off the ground because of funding challenges.

The sector has seen rapid consolidation following the introduction of the reforms in April (9 May 2013). Last week, Cardiff-headquartered Morgan Cole offloaded its volume claims and catastrophic insurance teams to DAC Beachcroft (15 November 2013).

Despite the latest move Walker Morris has shown steady financial growth in the last year, announcing a 2.4 per cent rise in turnover from £41m in 2011/12 to £42m in 2012/13. Litigation continues to provide the greatest proportion of revenue, remaining at 45 per cent of total turnover last year.

The closure was first reported on legal website RollonFriday.