Consolidator and investor target IPs handling distressed law firms

Hussain: Looking beyond North-West for deals

An acquisitive North-West law firm and a private equity investor have joined forces to offer a service for insolvency practitioners (IPs) looking to sell distressed consumer practices.

Manchester-based AWH Solicitors was set up as an acquisition vehicle in 2017 with the support of Sandton Capital Partners, specialising in high-volume consumer law work.

The pair are working with Sheffield-based Credit Style – which acquires debtor books to provide certainty on returns to company creditors – and new specialist insolvency litigation funder Tresartis, set up by Sandton, to offer ‘IP Unlock‘, which they describe as a “turnkey” solution that makes it easier for IPs to maximise value.

AWH came to prominence in 2018 after buying industrial disease specialist Roberts Jackson, and chief executive Abdul Hussain said he has completed seven acquisitions of firms or WIP books in all, including Blackburn firm Roebuck Solicitors, with a strong focus on personal injury (PI) work.

He told Legal Futures that ambitions outlined in August 2019 to complete £100m worth of acquisitions within two years were thwarted by the delays in the new small claims regime for road traffic accidents, which meant that the expected consolidation in the PI market was also delayed.

But Mr Hussain predicted that the combination of the system going live on Monday, the end of financial support to help businesses through the pandemic and the need to start paying off loans taken under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme meant that the next year should see consolidation accelerate to new levels among high street consumer law firms.

He said the firm has invested in technology such that it would continue to handle claims covered by the new regime.

Sandton, which has institutional backing in the US, specialises in what it calls “challenging but viable businesses” where the situation is too complex for traditional capital sources.

Mr Hussain said he has now also secured financial support from a funder to acquire solvent law firms too, but he declined to identify it at this stage.

Unlike other consolidators in the market, he added, AWH was targeting “low profit firms where we can add value” and was now looking outside of the North-West.

“Being part of IP Unlock gives us access to a team of experts so we can deliver a truly complete solution to IPs in a smooth and timely fashion. Our success speaks for itself and we continue to actively seek new acquisition opportunities.

“We know what they need, how to assist with the regulatory and legal aspects to get the acquisition completed, whilst also ensuring creditors get the best return.”

Matt Meehan, head of Sandton UK, said the PI law firm market was “facing a time of reckoning” with next week’s reforms.

“IP Unlock aims to extend AWH’s scope across the UK with further acquisitions of legal cases and businesses.”

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