Firm profile: Backhouse Jones


James Backhouse, Jonathan Backhouse, Ian Jones and Andrew Woolfall
Turnover: £1.8m
Total number of fee-earners: 15
Main practice areas: Road transport, defendant personal injury, regulatory compliance, commercial litigation and employment
Key clients: Stagecoach, Firstgroup, Arriva and Shearings Coaches
Number of offices: One
Location: Clitheroe,East Lancashire

Clitheroe-based Backhouse Jones offers a niche service advising clients concerned with the transportation of goods or passengers by road. Operators of both large goods vehicles (LGV) and passenger-carrying vehicles (PCV) account for 95 per cent of the firm’s turnover.

“By concentrating our expertise within one industry and challenging our rivals with a brand, we provide an identifiably bespoke service,” the firm’s brochure claims. “A clear and unequivocal niche identity is our vision for a resilient brand image.”

The strategy appears to be paying off. In the past six years the firm’s turnover has increased sevenfold. Its staff, which six years ago consisted of identical twin brothers James and Jonathan Backhouse plus one other lawyer, now includes 15 fee-earners.

The firm operates as a fully incorporated company. “We think that it’s the business structure for the future,” comments Ian Jones, a director of the firm alongside the twins and Andrew Woolfall. “It separates ownership and control, whereas most law firm partnerships can’t even agree what coffee to put in the machine.”

Jones says it is “coincidental” that the shares are owned by the directors. “As we go forward, it’s possible that the directors will take less directional control,” he says.

The Backhouse brothers are seventh-generation solicitors with strong links to their specialism. Their grandfather started advising on road transport in 1930 when the first legislation hit the statute books. “The heritage is interesting, but the firm is relatively youthful,” says Jones. “I’m the oldest person in the firm and I’m only 38.”

The firm splits its work into three parts. First, there is the defendant personal injury work. “All of my clients are self-insured undertakings – such as Stagecoach and Arriva,” says Jones. In other words, the companies do not have insurance other than the policy excess of, for example, £250,000. Consequently, claims against such companies are dealt with in-house with the support of Backhouse Jones.

The second major area is regulatory compliance. Last year, the firm advised on regulatory and operators’ licence compliance on a £200m merger of two operators. The firm appealed successfully to the House of Lords to clarify tachograph law in the case of Wing v Nutall. It claims to handle 15 public inquiries every month when operators are called up for a public inquiry before the traffic commissioner concerning issues to do with licences.

The firm also specialises in commercial litigation and employment. Last year, Backhouse Jones represented operators moving carcasses to be incinerated during the foot-and-mouth crisis. The dispute with the Government over payment was settled confidentially.

James Backhouse, Jonathan Backhouse, Ian Jones and Andrew Woolfall
Backhouse Jones