Leeds-based ABR plans to become UK’s biggest criminal practice

The criminal division of Leeds-based firm Clarion Solicitors is to open two new offices in northern England by the end of the month and another three offices by the end of the year following the acquisition of offices in Harrogate and Huddersfield less than a month ago.

Fraud, crime and regulatory practice Clarion Advocates, which was formed as a separate division of Clarion Solicitors in 2010, re-branded as ABR Solicitors in July this year as part of an aggressive growth strategy to see it become England’s largest criminal practice.

After announcing its new name in July, ABR took on criminal specialist Roger Clapham, acquiring his practice in Huddersfield, and Simon Crosfield & Co in Harrogate.

Andrew Duncan, managing director of ABR Solicitors, told The Lawyer that ABR is now focused on buying and merging with criminal law practices across England, starting with criminal practices in the north before opening offices in the south and west.

He refused to say which two offices ABR will be acquiring in the next month, but did confirm that they are in northern England and that details will be formally announced in September.

Another three offices will then be acquired by the end of the year, with up to 10 acquisitions planned for 2013, Duncan confirmed. “The market is very supportive – lots of small firms are looking at the knife edge, and this is a proactive way of throwing out a lifeline,” he said.

The practice’s firm, Clarion Solicitors, has also voiced ambitious plans for the year. A spokesperson at Clarion revealed a very different strategy to ABR, however, saying that the firm does not intend to grow geographically. Instead, Clarion will focus on doubling its turnover – from £8.5m to £15m – by the end of the current financial year.

“To reach our £15m turnover target we intend to build on the techniques we’ve used to date – continuing to make the right lateral hires and maintain our organic growth,” said Clarion managing partner Mark Burns. “Our plan is for double-digit growth this financial year.”

Duncan said he could not discuss how ABR is financing the planned acquisitions in any detail, adding that the buyouts will go ahead “like any other M&A programme”.