Ex-One Legal staff given pay award over redundancy without notice

Howarth: One Legal founder

Sixty-four former employees of One Legal – the alternative business structure that owned two criminal law firms – have been granted full protective awards because they were made redundant without notice.

It means they will receive 90 days’ pay – assuming there is enough money in One Legal’s administration.

One Legal owned well-known London firms Kaim Todner and Guney Clarke & Ryan, but 80 staff lost their jobs in December 2019 due to cash flow problems. The initial plan was to place the firm into a creditors’ voluntary liquidation but for various reasons it was put into administration instead.

According to an employment tribunal ruling published yesterday, One Legal failed to inform and consult with staff about their redundancies and so breached its obligations under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

The 64 claimants sought a protective award – payable under the Act where there is no consultation on redundancy – and the tribunal awarded them the maximum of 90 days.

The most recent report of One Legal’s administrator, Mike Kienlen of Armstrong Watson – produced in January before the tribunal hearing – said he had not lodged a defence but “allowed it to continue”.

Any protective awards were on the list of remaining matters to handle before ending the administration.

In the event a former employer cannot pay the protective award, the Insolvency Service will step in but capped at eight weeks’ pay.

The report indicated that One Legal’s secured creditor, Barclays, owed £526,000 and unsecured creditors owed £1m, were unlikely to receive a return.

Mr Kienlen said his review of the company’s affairs “have revealed certain areas which require further investigation” – but he did not go into detail.

However, he added: “I am exploring options to sell or assign the claims arising under these investigations to an external litigation funder”.

One Legal was the brainchild of Trevor Howarth – the founder of now-defunct Stobart Barristers – and his original aim was to challenge the standard criminal law firm model, centralising the back-office function and providing a bespoke IT and case management solution, and freeing up the lawyers to focus on their work.

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