After a year at Hammonds, the ScottWilks partners wanted to go niche

Start-up firm ScottWilks Legal opened for business on 30 September, but despite being less than three months old the fledgling commercial litigation and insolvency firm has already expanded into Birmingham after hiring fourth partner Philip Jones.

The niche practice, which focuses principally on factoring and discounting work in the asset-based lending (ABL) market, was set up by ex-Hammonds partner Robert Scott and senior assistants Andy Wilks and Tim Francis. All three were formerly at 12-partner firm Wildes, which was dissolved in August 2001 after being raided by the national firm. Scott and Wilks hold the positions of senior and founding partner respectively.

Scott says: “After Wildes split there was a hole in the market that other firms wanted to fill. What we want to do is be there and fill that vacuum and get back into what we’re good at. We want to draw on our strength from our experience at Wildes and Hammonds. There’s no one else in the market that’s as niche as us.”

The work that Scott and Wilks concentrate on also involves fraud investigations and asset recovery, while Francis specialises in insolvency. Wilks, who is an associate fraud examiner, says: “We like to specialise in fraud work because it’s exciting stuff. [Fraud work] is something we’re quite well known for in the ABL market as being good at.”

A couple of weeks ago Scott, who is a certified fraud examiner, was instructed by a major Irish company to advise on a potential action against a clearing bank in respect of counterfeit bank drafts valued at more than £1m.

Wilks says: “Our idea is to create the complete circle, so that as soon as a client’s money is out of the door, we’re there to assist in the recovery of that money if necessary.”

ScottWilks does not have any turnover figures as yet, but Wilks says the firm is billing above the targets set in its budget. “We’re aiming to break even within the first year,” he adds.

The size of the deals in which ScottWilks is involved varies from large High Court actions to small county court claims. Wilks says: “The size of the firm doesn’t restrict the size of the deals.”

The firm is not planning to recruit any more lawyers in the immediate future and there are no further plans to open additional offices. “If the work continues to come in at the current levels, we will need further fee-earners,” admits Wilks. “We’ll probably need a junior litigation assistant.” The firm currently has no assistants.

Wilks also argues that, because the firm is a small niche practice, it is able to offer flexibility to clients. “We want to be flexible and approach cases on a commercial basis,” he states.

The size of the firm also helps it to compete on price. “We’re noticeably cheaper,” says Wilks. “But we’re not aiming at the market where people come to us because we have rock bottom fees. Our fees are measured and based on what we think is right in the marketplace at the moment.”