Unique niche firm to use ABS status to take on larger competitors

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By Legal Futures

13 September 2012

Liability claims: Strata combines legal and insurance skills

The only UK law firm focusing exclusively on handling liability claims for self-insured companies has become the latest alternative business structure (ABS) and plans to use the status to help it take on larger competitors.

Strata Solicitors Limited, based in Northamptonshire, was founded in 2011 by Paul Davies, a solicitor, and Richard Fearn, an insurance professional, who has now become an owner of the practice. Both were previously at Leicester firm Harvey Ingram, Mr Davies as a partner and head of its Corclaim division and Mr Fearn a director.

Now with 48 staff, Strata seeks to combine the different training, experience and skills of lawyers and insurance professionals in acting for a small number of very large clients – its largest has a fleet of over 40,000 vehicles. Mr Davies said this is the firm’s unique offering to the market, arguing that other, larger players only pay lip service to combining legal and insurance skills in this way.

He explained: “Because we wanted to have non-lawyers among our senior management team, and offer all our non-lawyers long term progression in the business we converted to ABS status. Although we remain the same legal entity, achieving this format provides us with true flexibility for the future growth of our bespoke corporate services in a market dominated by larger companies.”

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Mr Davies said he viewed obtaining ABS status “as an endorsement of our approach, philosophy and wish to provide companies with an equally good, if not better alternative, in the claims market to the much larger legal and insurance providers”.

It also gives the firm greater flexibility to work with and partner with non-lawyers – and even be owned by them – in the longer term, he added.

Mr Davies predicted that insurance companies would wait and see on how ABSs develop, but that in time, and especially with the referral fee ban on the horizon, “they will come in because they will want to cut out the middle man – that is, the solicitor”.

He described the nine-month process of obtaining the licence as detailed and demanding, “with the Solicitors Regulation Authority challenging and examining every aspect of our business and the suitability and capability of our senior people”.

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