Acquisitions for law firms backed by hedge fund and private equity

Solaris Law: Karen Bulgarelli (l) with Mel Chell

One law firm backed by a hedge fund and another by private equity have each completed significant acquisitions.

Solaris Law is now one of the largest consumer and commercial collections and legal debt recovery businesses in the UK after acquiring the legal services division of Equivo and national law firm Shoosmiths’ business-to-business recoveries division.

The deals give Solaris, the new name for Azzurro Law, 120 new staff on top of its existing 30.

The alternative business structure was launched in 2020 by Azzurro Associates, a hedge fund-backed business that finances debt recovery litigation.

Its parent company is Elliott Management, a huge hedge fund with $59bn of assets under management.

Equivo’s field team and High Court enforcement business will not form part of the new business and instead continue to operate under the Equivo brand. Equivo was itself only set up in 2021 as a joint venture between Shoosmiths and collections, recoveries and enforcement business Chartsbridge.

Azzurro’s Karen Bulgarelli and Equivo’s Mel Chell – who previously worked together at Shoosmiths – will be joint chief executive officers.

Ms Bulgarelli said: “We share a single-minded focus on developing Solaris Law into a diverse, market-leading recoveries business, built on a data-driven, customer focused recoveries strategy that leads to good customer outcomes and in turn gives our clients a better service.”

Ms Chell added that the business would be unique in providing “complete service lines across the full credit lifecycle”.

Andrew Birkwood, founder of the Azzurro Group, said the combined teams would deliver significant economies of scale.

Meanwhile, Fletchers Group has made its latest acquisition since being bought by private equity firm Sun European Partners in the shape of Serious Injury Law (SIL).

The SIL brand will be retained for the combined serious injury team, as will its offices in Bolton and Cambridge. It has three equity partners and 46 staff.

Fletchers Group chief executive Peter Haden said the deal strengthened its presence in the North-West and “creates a clear leader in the field”.

He explained: “This is an important deal for us, in that it reinforces our leadership in serious personal injury and underscores our strategy to strengthen the group by acquiring exceptional law practices with excellent reputations.”

SIL partner Tim Walters said: “Consolidation in the serious injury market is gathering pace thanks to a wave of reform and subsequent changes to business models which reflect the emerging market landscape…

“Becoming part of a bigger group will give our colleagues many more development opportunities and we are excited by the potential for Fletchers to help accelerate our plans for growth.”

Fletchers’ previous acquisitions include Cycle SOS, Minton Morill and Emsleys’ personal injury division.

In other M&A news, EMW – which has offices in Milton Keynes, London, Gatwick and Brighton – has merged with Northampton firm SP Law.

It takes EMW, which recently joined the growing band of law firms that are B Corporations, back to Northampton, where it launched back in 1992.

EMW managing partner James Geary said: “The deal will allow us to accelerate growth, build market share and ensure we’re investing in innovation and attracting the very best talent.”

SP Law has two partners, Hassan Shah and Sundip Patel, has 17 staff. EMW has 19 partners and 115 staff.

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