Eversheds‘ dedicated insurance practice in Birmingham has closed, with its caseload being distributed to other firms across the UK.
The team of seven led by partner Geoff Owen, who originally took his insurance motor team from DLA to Eversheds in December 1998, disbanded the department on 1 May.
Owen has resurfaced at niche Liverpool insurance firm Silverbeck Rymer, which concentrates on both claimant and defendant insurance work. He will be a consultant at Silverbecks and has assigned some of his files to his new firm, including some matters for Cornhill Insurance.
One of the former Birmingham office’s senior assistants Denny Payton has joined niche insurance practice Davies Lavery as a partner. She has taken a caseload of some 700 ongoing actions with her, including Cornhill, NIG Skandia and Hertz Claims Management.
Beachcroft Wansbroughs, which is the largest defendant insurance team in Birmingham, with 10 partners, has also benefited from the closure, with partner Sarah May taking on other Cornhill files. The firm has bolstered its department further with the transfer of defendant insurance partner Bruce Ralston from its London office and the hire of Maurice Nicolls from Wragge & Co, who joins on 7 May.
Other firms have absorbed the work from the Birmingham team. Some work has been transferred to Eversheds partner Brendon Padfield in the Ipswich office and files have also made their way as far as Croydon, to niche insurance firm Cogent.
An Eversheds spokesperson said: “The insurance department in Birmingham was shut down as a result of Owen’s decision to go part-time and the firm’s decision to concentrate on Nottingham, where the insurance team is more established.”
The firm isn’t the first to take such a measure in the Birmingham insurance market. At the beginning of 2001, Hammond Suddards Edge shut its claimant insurance practice in Birmingham, which comprised six lawyers, after its merger with Edge Ellison. Chris Davies, who headed the practice, joined Birmingham firm Putsmans and the rest of the group were absorbed into the firm nationally.
In December 2001, Pinsent Curtis Biddle followed suit. It made four partners and 11 fee-earners redundant from its London, Birmingham and Leeds insurance offices, all from the professional indemnity group.
One source cited the highly competitive market in Birmingham as a reason for the closures. “Defendant insurance work is a lot tighter than acting for claimants,” she said. “Insurers have consolidated and narrowed their panels considerably and some firms will lose out.”