Large North-West conveyancing practice to close doors on Friday

Fylde RFC: Law firm sponsored rugby club

A large conveyancing firm in the North-West is to close its doors on Friday, with its two directors taking some staff to join the practice owned by listed company Smoove.

Alexander Grace Law’s website says it has 200 staff; while a spokeswoman said this was out of date, she did not confirm how many people now work there and how many are having to look for new jobs.

Set up in 2016, the firm, which is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), is headquartered in Burnley and in 2020 opened an office in Blackpool.

Its directors are solicitor James Young and chartered legal executive Donnamarie Sturrock, while Companies House says that North-West estate agency Keenans owns a stake of between 25% and 50%.

Former Premier League footballer and manager Iain Dowie joined the firm in 2020 as new business director; his wife already worked for the firm.

Mr Young and Ms Sturrock declined to say why the firm was closing. In a statement, Ms Sturrock said: “In May it was decided that we would commence a controlled closure of Alexander Grace Law and that closure will take effect on 30 June.

“From 1 July, all transactions that haven’t completed will be closed and we have spoken to all clients concerned. We are still retaining files that are awaiting registration.”

She and Mr Young have joined Bolton-based Amity Law as consultant conveyancing lawyers “and will take some current employees with us into this new venture, ensuring that we can continue to provide exceptional legal services to clients”.

Amity Law was acquired by listed property technology firm Smoove in 2021, which the latter said was to help it test products in a “live environment” before they were launched.

Smoove is itself currently in talks about a takeover by Australian conveyancing technology giant PEXA, with the deadline for an offer recently extended to 14 July.

Ms Sturrock added: “We are committed to working with Amity and the CLC to ensure a smooth transition for both our clients and staff and look forward to joining such a reputable firm.

“Looking after our clients and staff has been paramount during this period and we are pleased to announce that all staff not joining us in this new venture have been supported in securing alternative employment and we wish them every success in their futures.”

In a statement, Amity Law said it used Smoove technology to provide self-employed consultant conveyancing lawyers “the platform to operate on”.

It said it would honour the conveyancing price already agreed with Alexander Grace Law for any clients moving over.

Managing director Paul Saunders added: “We understand the concerns and challenges that arise when a law firm unexpectantly closes… We are committed to stepping in swiftly to support residential conveyancing clients affected by the closure of AGL.”

A spokeswoman for the Council for Licensed Conveyancers said: “Alexander Grace is undergoing a managed closure. Arrangements are being made to ensure that all transactions continue without interruption with the support of other conveyancing firms.

“Clients will be able to choose whether to follow those arrangements or instruct another conveyancer of their choosing.”

The Blackpool office was meant to be officially opened by world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury but ultimately could not because of Covid. He sent a video message instead. The firm also sponsored local rugby club Fylde.

The firm also received some negative publicity in 2020 when it tweeted a photograph of a new female recruit with the caption “Every law firm needs a beautiful, friendly receptionist”. The post was criticised in the press as sexist.

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