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North West practice puts on brave face as insurance sector upheaval sees slew of firms cut from panels
Weightmans has been knocked off two major insurance panels in the last week. The Liverpool firm has lost both general insurance claims instructions from AXA Insurance and fast-track work from CGNU. More upheaval is anticipated in the market as both insurers are due to reassess additional legal panels. Weightmans senior partner Ian Evans said: "Where there's consolidation in the insurance market there's always bound to be changes. In business terms, we continue to maintain our status as a major player, as evidenced by recent well-publicised successes, notably with AXA Corporate Solutions and the NHSLA [NHS Litigation Authority]." AXA's long-awaited review has reduced its external advisers for general insurance claims litigation from more than 30 to just 13 firms. Badhams, Beachcroft Wansbroughs, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Cartwrights (now merged with Bond Pearce), Jacksons, James Chapman & Co, Kennedys, Keoghs, Morgan Cole, Palser Grossman, Rowe & Maw, the Anderson Partnership and HBM Sayers have all come up trumps.
"Where there is consolidation in the insurance market there's always bound to be changes" Ian Evans, Weightmans
Only Morgan Cole and Keoghs have been selected to provide advice from more than one regional office, so despite keeping a panel place, both Beachcrofts and Berrymans have witnessed a decline in the number of offices used by AXA. The former has been instructed in Birmingham, the latter in Manchester. Among the unsuccessful firms, Weightmans has provoked the most bemused reaction from rivals. One leading insurance lawyer said: "It's definitely a surprise not to see them on the list." For Weightmans, this setback follows hard on the heels of news that its Manchester-based retail and leisure boutique has moved to Halliwell Landau. Managing partner and head of employment at the Manchester office Michael Ball, property head David Morgan and partner Rod Waldie announced their plans to join Halliwells last month. Merricks has also been omitted from the revised AXA panel. Insurance partner Andrew Hunn commented: "We shall certainly need to review aspects of the business. It's part of a continuing process, and we've already sought to insulate against these changes." Niche firm Chapman Everatt, too, has suffered from the shifting dynamics of the insurance sector. Set up nearly 10 years ago primarily to service Guardian Royal Exchange, the firm has lost a major client as a result of Guardian's merger with AXA. Name partner Richard Chapman said: "The loss of the AXA work is huge. However, the firm will continue its insurance business as before." He added that losing AXA has resulted in some redundancies, including a number of partners. The CGNU fast-track panel is believed to include Keoghs, Jacksons, Beachcrofts and Hill Dickinson.