Top PI firms reveal mixed profits as another hits TV to build brand

James Maxey

Maxey: Numerous approaches

Two leading personal injury law firms have recorded contrasting results that take lockdown into account, with Express Solicitors seeing profits rise while Minster Law’s fell.

Manchester-based Express saw group turnover to the year ending 31 August 2020 up 29% to a record £27.4m. This includes income from its sister company Ontime Reports, a medical reporting agency.

Despite Covid-19, profit before tax rose from £1m to £4.7m as its caseload grew 6.7% to 14,545.

Managing partner James Maxey said that, to counter the drop in the number of new cases in the past six months – which will be felt in 18-36 months due to settlement profiles – the firm planned to increase its marketing budget by £2m to £8m for the coming year.

The firm recorded that 85% of staff were working from home within 10 days of lockdown, with 12% furloughed and 3% remaining in the office to deal with essential day-to-day business.

It now has 31 partners, with the promotions of Jennifer Lutton and Seetal Sagar-Jhanji, and 320 staff.

Mr Maxey added: “Over the last six months, we have been approached by numerous firms and brokers of law firms who are looking to exit the PI market, some of which we are pursuing.

“If successful, it will increase both turnover and caseloads to help cement Express Solicitors as one of the top specialist personal injury firms in England and Wales.”

Wakefield-based Minster Law recorded profit before tax of £1.1m, down a third, on a turnover down £1m to £34.1m for the year to 30 June 2020. It said the profit figure represented a “good result” given the exceptional trading conditions caused by Covid.

Its newly filed accounts said: “The company made excellent progress in its strategic aims throughout the year, with a number of new partnership arrangements secured.”

They said the financial results were impacted by reduced road traffic claims due to Covid – “the net impact on the in-year profit is estimated to be circa £1m but the impact on earnings will continue into future financial years from the lower work in progress” – as well as higher distribution costs from the new contracts won.

“The income benefit will be realised over multiple financial periods,” the accounts said.

“Despite the impact of Covid-19, the business has a strong balance sheet and will continue to invest in further organisational and business transformation, underpinned by a focus on our digital maturity to deliver a market-leading customer experience and an increasingly efficient and scalable operating model.”

This was shown by a further improvement in the ratio of administrative costs to turnover, Minster said, which fell from 31.8% to 26.4%. It has around 450 staff.

Minster committed to not making redundancies during the lockdown period and maintained full pay for all staff.

The firm is part of BHL (UK) Holdings Ltd, which also owns, as well as insurance distribution and outsourcing business BGL.

Finally, another leading player in the personal injury and wider consumer legal services market, Simpson Millar, this week launched its first national television advert, promoting its tagline of ‘The Open Lawyers’ as it looks to build a national brand.

The firm said a mix of TV, social and digital exposure meant it expected the advert to be seen over 88 million times in the next three months.

The first part of the campaign incorporates “scenes which portray the difficulties and challenges experienced by victims of personal injury” but will later move beyond PI.

It features the firm’s new ‘brand ambassador’ – not a celebrity but someone who the firm said represented a number of key attributes that consumers told it were important when selecting a law firm: trustworthy, believable, clear, honest, and approachable.

Chief executive Greg Cox said: “Awareness of Simpson Millar and what we are trying to achieve will play a key part in opening up the law. This is our first advert, and an exciting step in building that awareness.”

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