A new business owned by “non-solicitor entrepreneurs” who have already invested £10m is promising to revolutionise the way in which criminal defence work is undertaken.
Defence Hub is predicting that it will turnover more than £50m in its first year and will both employ solicitors and work with other law firms, guaranteeing them a 21.6% gross margin on any “case management file”.
It is a largely digital service, and not a law firm, that goes live on 28 January 2014, focusing on casework preparation and advocacy. It said it has already secured 12 offices around the country.
“The service will reduce costs, and puts financial value back into the duty solicitor’s scheme,” Defence Hub said in a statement issued this evening.
The business said it has already hired over 70 full-time solicitors and higher court advocates, with an additional 50 vacancies being offered by January and 180 more by the end of 2014.
Further, over 20 “carefully hand-selected criminal defence firms of various sizes, including a top-five legal aid provider, have signed three-year contracts with Defence Hub, which in turn guarantees each of them a 21.6% return on non-own client related casework”.
Neither the identity of who is behind Defence Hub nor how it works is known at the moment, although more details should be released shortly.
Its current public face is recruiter Sean Smith of Eximius Law, whose advertisement  in the Law Society Gazette for 120 criminal defence solicitors caught the attention of the legal community. He told Legal Futures that the backers – who have already put in £10m, mainly towards an IT system – are UK based and already involved in the legal services market.
He said the model – which has been run past the Ministry of Justice – is one already operated in several countries, but nobody had thought to bring it to the UK until now.
Though technically Defence Hub is an “enabler” of criminal defence legal aid services, the legal aid contract was drafted in such a way that it allowed the business also to employ solicitors.
Other criminal law firms will have an opportunity to enrol with Defence Hub from 28 January 2014. Mr Smith said Defence Hub estimated that its model could accommodate 72% of the firms that currently provide criminal defence services.