Law firms have “failed to invest” in debt recovery teams

Merrell: A lot of firms dabble in debt work

Many law firms have failed to invest in their debt and uninsured loss recovery teams, creating a “gap in the market”, according to one looking to double its £6.5m turnover in three years.

Corclaim, part of eight-office Midlands firm Shakespeare Martineau, focuses on uninsured loss recovery – both motor and property, plus employers’ and product liability – and is eyeing up acquisitions of debt teams and companies as a key part of its strategy.

In the next fortnight Corclaim is set to go live with a costs drafting and negotiation service. It recently added debt recovery and asset finance to its suite of services.

Announcing the launch, the firm’s publicity material said it would also include “a platform for Corclaim to attract acquisition targets to support Corclaim’s strategic aim of doubling turnover by 2021.

“Corclaim is actively seeking niche recovery firms/teams or technological start-ups that like the idea of moving to a business that puts recovery specialisms at the heart of everything it does.”

The business numbers among its clients national companies and public sector organisations that require high-volume operations that deal with hundreds or even thousands of cases at one time. A dedicated IT platform, i-cor, gives clients data on the claims in a variety of metrics.

Shakespeare Martineau partner Mark Merrell, who heads Corclaim, said the expansion was in response to client demand and enabled the firm to provide a holistic service.

Speaking to Legal Futures, Mr Merrell said he believed many law firms failed to invest in their debt and uninsured loss recovery teams, creating a “gap in the market” for a law firm that specialised in the area.

“The reality is that a lot of firms dabble in it and de-prioritise it. But if you’re sitting there as the financial controller of a business who is going to be judged on how quickly you can get your debts down, you want someone who will act to get your money in as quickly as possible…

“The opportunity… that we are finding [is] a lot of law firms are not looking to invest in the debt recovery or enforcement part of their business, allowing them to wither on the vine.”

Mr Merrell said the service most likely to be the next to be added to Corclaim’s offering was regulatory advice, which was “pretty close” to being launched.

Public sector clients in particular were interested: “What they would term debt recovery really involves an understanding of quite detailed regulation, for instance health and safety.”

In the longer run, he said: “We are trying to get to a position where we can provide a more general litigation service at a more competitive level.”

He observed that the role of lawyers in debt recovery was changing, particularly in relation to high-volume work.

While they were still needed for some of the conflicts work and training and supervision, administrators, process workers and technologically proficient staff were increasingly important.

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