Finance practice hires put Irwin Mitchell in ABS driving seat

Irwin Mitchell has boosted its national business legal services team as it edges closer to converting to ABS status.

The firm has taken Squire Sanders banking and asset based lending partners Andrew Watson and Jon Bew to bolster its finance team. Watson will become head of finance based in London and Bew will split his time between the City and Birmingham.

The business legal services division is a cornerstone of the firm’s growth plan (20 April 2011), which is to attract external investment and build up a £50m warchest.

Irwin Mitchell was one of the first to put in its application for ABS status, but is still waiting for the go-ahead from the SRA.

The firm’s new two-tier corporate structure of professional and business legal services came into effect in May 2011 and initial figures for 2011-12 put the top 20 firm’s total turnover, including subsidiaries, up to £183.7m. It represents an increase of almost seven per cent in total revenue, with net profit up by around 20 per cent.

The latest hire of Watson and Bew follows a series of senior appointments that were kicked off by the raid of an SJ Berwin real estate team headed by Jon Vivian in order to build its own City practice (27 September 2010).

Since then, the firm has added Paul Firth from DLA Piper Sheffield to work with Niall Baker, head of the firm’s business legal services division, to develop the business practice across the UK.

The appointment of Tom Flanagan as national head of employment followed (7 March 2011).

Other senior appointments in London include Sue Wilson as a senior real estate litigation consultant, Alex Barnes as a real estate tax partner and Jayne Schnider who joined from Taylor Wessing as a corporate real estate partner.

DLA Piper’s head of construction and engineering Julie Morrissy and Steven Bate, DWF’s head of construction in Yorkshire, have also recently moved to Irwin Mitchell.

Watson and Bew have more than 35 years’ experience in the London finance market covering receivables finance, trade finance, inventory finance, equipment finance and structuring cross-border financings.

Their client base includes UK clearing banks and their subsidiaries, independent specialist financiers and overseas asset-based lenders.

In a statement, Baker said the hires are a “serious step up” for the firm’s capaility and reputation in the finance sector.

He said the aim was to continue to expand finance on the back of the firm’s relationships with banks and insurance companies and to bring in work in litigation, recovery, insolvency and restructuring.