Loan purchaser buys law firm

One of Europe’s largest debt purchasers has acquired a Welsh law firm that specialises in outsourced advocacy following the grant of an alternative business structure (ABS) licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Link Financial Group (LFG) has bought Caerphilly-based Kearns Solicitors with the aim of expanding the range of outsourced legal services that it offers its customers.

It is one of only a handful of deals so far under the ABS regime that has seen a law firm bought by a company, rather than private equity investor.

LFG describes itself as one of Europe’s largest purchasers and servicers of performing, semi-performing and non-performing loans, managing more than two million customers and €11bn of receivables. The group is headquartered in Dublin with three offices in the UK and a further four operational centres in Spain, Italy and Germany.

LFG said Kearns offers a nationwide advocacy service for big companies and volume litigation solicitors at agency hearings in every county court throughout England and Wales, with 100 specialist advocates ready to attend hearings at short notice.

“Through offering a niche outsourcing service to the legal profession, supported by a bespoke diary system and cutting edge IT, Kearns has been able to expand its operations greatly since its inception in 1989, with its advocates handling up to 50,000 hearings per annum for many of the country’s leading lending institutions and their solicitors.”

Managing director Robert Kearns said that being part of Link’s wider organisation would allow Kearns “to take a step forward in developing our advocacy business into new clients and product areas, as well as supporting the group’s servicing activities as a wholly-owned legal firm”.

Mr Kearns, the ABS’s head of legal practice, told Legal Futures the new investment would be used to improve technology, training and monitoring – “all those things which will enable us to offer better outcomes to our clients”.

He described the ABS application process as “long, drawn out and exhaustive”, but said he “perfectly understood” why it took a few months and the SRA had provided “every assistance” he required.

LFG said Kearns’ “systems-driven solution, allied to the depth and breadth of advocacy experience, offers huge potential for growth and is a natural extension of its current operations and strategy to develop outsourced business solutions”.

Chief operating officer Selina Burdell said: “We believe the Kearns proposition gives us a fantastic opportunity to expand our range of outsourced legal services to clients through our new ABS. It is a perfect complement to our longstanding unsecured loan servicing platform and recently formed mortgage administration business.”

The SRA granted Kearns a waiver that allows staff “from time to time to be connected to named businesses which carry out prohibited separate business activities”.

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