Field Fisher moots external investment for personal injury arm

Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) is considering taking outside investment to fund its high-cost personal injury and medical negligence business in a move to reduce the amount of partner capital spent on the practice.

The firm is weighing up seeking bank funding to finance the high-ranking practice as a way of meeting its considerable financial needs without partners across the firm having to take the economic burden.

The move would be a change in stance for the firm, which currently only uses bank funding for the purposes of deferring tax.

The plans – under discussion by the management board – are still in their early stages, with alternatives including sticking to the status quo that sees the expensive practice funded by all equity partners’ capital contributions.

Personal injury and medical negligence tend to be investment-heavy fields because firms often charge fees conditional on the outcome of cases, meaning they have to put money into the work upfront.

Plans for external investment are limited to specific parts of the firm rather than the whole thing, with one partner saying there was “no prospect” of it seeking external investment for the entire entity. Despite this, the firm has considered bringing in an outside organisation to value the business (16 March 2012).

An FFW partner said: “We’ve got a big personal injury/medical negligence practice that requires quite a lot of funding. Me might go for bank funding. We’re discussing how to fund the practice. At the moment it’s [funded by] partners leaving money in.”

A firm spokesperson said management was looking at options, but declined to comment further.

FFW’s LLP accounts for the 2010-11 financial year show that partners contributed £2.1m to the firm, 25 per cent down on £2.8m in 2009-10.

Total bank loans and overdrafts stood at £1.7m for 2010-11, the accounts show. These were 67 per cent higher at £5.2m in 2009-10.