Irwin Mitchell joins Golds for repositioning strategy

Irwin Mitchell joins Golds for repositioning strategy” />Personal injury powerhouse Irwin Mitchell has kick-started a repositioning strategy to allow it take full advantage of the Clementi reforms by merging with Glasgow-based firm Golds.

The union, which will take effect on 1 April, will form a £125m-turnover practice that will be the fourth-largest law firm by headcount in the UK with a total staff of 2,300, as first revealed on www. (12 March).

The two firms believe that, by teaming up to create a leading player in the market for commoditised insurance and lending advice, it will put them in a better position to benefit from any reforms allowed under the Legal Services Bill.

The bill, currently in its draft form, embraces the recommendations made by Sir David Clementi, that alternative business structures (ABSs) that allow lawyers and non-lawyers to work together should be permitted.

Irwin Mitchell managing partner Howard Culley told The Lawyer that the proposals for deregulation have already had an effect on the legal marketplace.

“We’re already seeing companies such as Co-op and the AA [Automobile Association] offering legal services, and I can see that other household brands will come on board after the Legal Services Bill comes into force,” said Culley. “With such strong brands coming into the market we felt the need to reposition ourselves.”

Irwin Mitchell and Golds both currently provide legal packages to consumers through other companies, including insurance and mortgage institutions. These institutions then brand the law firms’ services as their own.

Culley sees this current arrangement as something his firm can grow under any deregulation allowed through the Legal Services Bill, which is expected to come into force by 2010.

“Although the merger will allow Irwin Mitchell’s brand to strengthen in the eyes of the public, we feel we’re a long way off becoming a high street brand,” explained Culley. “We hope the merger will strengthen our brand on a more business-to-business platform and, through deregulation, that we may be able tap in to these other companies’ client-bases and therefore extend ours for mutual benefit to our firm and these other businesses.”

Irwin Mitchell’s strategy announcement comes more than a month after law firm Russell Jones & Walker threw its hat into the ABS ring (The Lawyer, 12 February).