AIM-listed business makes fourth law firm acquisition with Abney Garsden deal

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1 June 2016

Garsden: much greater resources

Garsden: much greater resources

Fairpoint Group, the AIM-listed company that has become a predominantly legal business, unveiled its fourth acquisition in two years yesterday after snapping up south Manchester firm Abney Garsden, best known for acting for victims of child abuse.

Simpson Millar is Fairpoint’s legal brand and the 20-person firm will relocate to its central Manchester offices over the next year.

Since acquiring Simpson Millar in June 2014, Fairpoint has also bought niche family firm Foster & Partners and Manchester practice Colemans-ctts. Now 67% of the company’s income is derived from legal services.

Abney Garsden founder Peter Garsden, arguably the country’s highest-profile abuse lawyer, said the 2013 LASPO reforms had led to more firms looking to enter his niche market as mainstream personal injury became less attractive. “[This deal] provides me with much greater resources than I can muster at the moment and more manpower to develop the department further.”

Roger Coleman, integration director at Simpson Millar, said the firm was looking for opportunities to expand into areas of personal injury – such as abuse claims – there are likely to be “less affected” by the latest round of government reforms. “Peter’s firm falls squarely into that.”

He continued: “Given the Simpson Millar branch network, national coverage, our connections, and Peter’s skills and own network, there is an opportunity to grow the practice.”

Mr Coleman said he had been talking to Abney Garsden about a possible deal when he was senior partner of Colemans, and then resurrected the talks after they were bought.

Peter Watson, managing partner of Simpson Millar, added: “We knew instantly that Abney Garsden was the right type of firm to join Simpson Millar because of their strong values and social conscience.

“The extended offering we now have in our portfolio means we can give better and wider services to all our clients. Peter has built a strong firm with a positive future and by joining Simpson Millar we can offer a more flexible and secure place to compete effectively in the market place”.

The deal means that Abney Garsden will withdraw from the QualitySolicitors network. Mr Garsden said he had “always got a great deal out of QS on the marketing side” and that, but for the acquisition, he would not have been looking to leave it.

Separately, Simpson Millar has hired Andrew Darke, formerly an equity partner at Irwin Mitchell, as director of partner distribution. He has a brief to develop the firm’s brand affiliations across a broad range of sectors, including banking, insurance, retail, trade union, utilities, employee assistance programmes and chambers of commerce.

Chris Moat, chief executive officer at Fairpoint, said: “Simpson Millar has proved a hugely successful investment and the brand continues to attract the calibre of people we need to develop our range of consumer professional services further. Andrew’s appointment reflects our intentions to continue our investment in professional services.”

Meanwhile, AIM-listed NAHL Group – owner of National Accident Helpline – announced yesterday that Tim Aspinall, former managing partner of DMH Stallard and now a law firm consultant, has been appointed a non-executive director of the business.

He is also a non-executive director of medical reporting company Premier Medical Holdings.

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