Irwin Mitchell turns to PwC for first non-lawyer chair

Irwin Mitchell has appointed former PricewaterhouseCoopers vice-chairman Glyn Barker as executive chairman designate, succeeding Michael Napier, as the firm steps up its campaign for alternative business structure (ABS) approval.

The appointment will need approval from the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) and will come into place should the firm gain ABS accreditation.

The firm has long had ambitions to convert to an ABS structure under the Legal Services Act (LSA) legislation. Today’s announcement comes just days after the firm confirmed its application for approval from the SRA.

Group chief executive John Pickering said: “This is an important appointment which again signals our intention to take advantage of the opportunities we think the Legal Services Act and moving to ABS status will offer us.”

Barker’s appointment is expected to galvanise the move and is aimed at enticing external investment in the firm.

In April last year Pickering unveiled plans for the firm to raise a £50m war chest to go head-to-head with mid-tier corporate firms (25 April 2011).

Pickering told The Lawyer: “We’re not trying to take on the magic circle, but in terms of business we can challenge the mid-tier corporate firms and those in small and medium-sized enterprise circles.

“We’re doing work for some of the biggest companies around. This will give us the opportunity to grow our service portfolio for the companies we’re working for.”

Napier announced his impending retirement in November when the firm said it would appoint a non-executive director as successor (16 November 2011).

Napier joined Irwin Mitchell in 1972 and spent 29 years as senior partner of the firm. He is widely credited with shaping modern group action law and introducing the concept of conditional fee arrangements to the legal system.