Global insurance giant backs legal business’s ambitious growth plans

LHS: Richard Candy, Murray Fairclough (legal services director), Ian Lewis, Graham Small (partner)

LHS: Richard Candy, Murray Fairclough (legal services director), Ian Lewis, Graham Small (partner)

Insurance giant Markel has laid out its plans to rapidly expand LHS Solicitors, an alternative business structure which combines the law firm and legal helpline it bought last year as part of its acquisition of Abbey Protection Group plc.

The newly branded LHS now employs 120 staff between offices in London, Croydon and Manchester, and is aiming to triple its current £12m fee income within five years

Managing director Richard Candy said that following a period of structural reorganisation, the backing of a large company meant the firm has “the resources to support our growth plans”.

In a deal worth £116.5m, New York-listed Markel’s purchase of Abbey – which provides legal and taxation-related professional fees insurance, including after-the-event insurance, along with tax and HR consultancy and legal services – was the first acquisition of a listed company that in turn owned an ABS, Lewis Hymanson Small.

Abbey Legal Services – which provided insurance-based telephone advice, as well as contentious employment and health & safety services – has been merged with the firm to create LHS.

Mr Candy said new ownership had not changed the direction of LHS, around half of whose clients come from Abbey’s insurance work, with the rest privately paying. “The involvement of Markel has speeded up our development work and given us a great deal of encouragement to have bigger plans,” he explained.

Abbey Legal handles around 200,000 phone calls per year to its legal advice call centre for clients including the Federation of Small Businesses and the Fostering Network. Lewis Hymanson Small, meanwhile, is best known for its regulatory and criminal law work, acting for the Police Superintendents’ Association of England & Wales and the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA), meaning it is heavily involved in the Hillsborough inquiry. It also acted for the former deputy speaker of the House of Commons, Nigel Evans, in his acquittal on sex abuse charges.

The focus for the new LHS brand will be to scale up activity in four areas: regulatory and criminal, telephone legal advice, business legal services and corporate work.

Mr Candy said: “Combining the resources of Abbey Legal and LHS and sharing our expertise across one recognisable brand focuses our sales and marketing plan and delivers a more seamless and consistent client service. We’re ambitious but confident in our vision to triple the fee income in the practice within five years.”

Ian Lewis, senior partner at LHS, added: “It has always been part of the strategic vision to scale the LHS brand to a wider market in terms of legal services to businesses. We intend to keep growing the firm and move forward together with a compelling strategy to continue competing with the premier law firms in the country with our regulatory, crime and business law services.”

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