The uncertainties around the personal injury reforms in England and Wales has caused Australia’s ‘other’ listed law firm to row back on plans to enter the market.
Shine Lawyers, a leading personal injury practice, has been talking about expanding to the UK since 2013, but in its 2016 annual report, published overnight, indicated that these are on hold.
“With the current reforms in the UK and difficulties in that market, the group is not actively pursuing opportunities in the UK but maintains a ‘watching brief’,” it said. Shine will instead focus on domestic growth opportunities.
More than three years ago, not long after it followed the example of Slater & Gordon and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, Shine was talking very positively about entering the UK, and later told investors that it considered itself “well placed” to take advantage of the changing UK legal market.
Shine’s 2016 results showed its turnover for the year to 30 June to be static at A$151.5m (£87.5m), with earnings down from A$45m to A$26m, and net profit nearly halved to A$14.8m, following a mid-year “restatement of provisioning levels for WIP and disbursements, and debtors” which had a major effect on its financial performance.
This led to its share price collapsing from A$2 to A$0.53, but it has steadily recovered since to A$1.34. Its all-time high was A$3.30 in March 2015.
The firm’s most eye-catching success during the year was the A$250m settlement of a class action over defective replacement hips.
Shine also has an alliance with internationally acclaimed environmental advocate Erin Brockovich, and the report said that because of “her strong referral base and other opportunities”, the company was keeping a “watching brief” on the US too.
Shine was originally a pure claimant damages practice, predominantly handling personal injury work, although it has been diversifying in recent years into other areas of private client. It began life in 1976 as a country practice in Queensland and through both organic growth and acquisition has since grown to over 600 people located across 41 offices throughout Australia.
Slater & Gordon has been relatively quiet in recent months, but its share price is still struggling at A$0.58, although more than twice the all-time low of A$0.26 seen earlier this year.