A legal business that runs regulated and unregulated law firms alongside each other has made two acquisitions, with up to four more planned in the coming months.
The 360 Law Group has absorbed North London firm J Pearlman – which closed due to rising professional indemnity insurance (PII) premiums – and Bradleys Property & Probate Lawyers, whose owner has been looking to retire.
Chief executive Robert Taylor told Legal Futures that he was looking to bring a further three or four firms into the group over the coming months.
“We are open to all types of firms including succession and PII, as well as larger firms with several owners who wish to join our team.
“Our main requirement is that all our lawyers have a minimum of five years’ post qualifying experience in their chosen area of specialisation.”
The virtual practice explicitly offers clients a regulated law firm, an alternative business structure called 360 Law Services, to handle reserved legal work, and an unregulated firm, 360 Business Law, for everything else.
Mr Taylor claimed last year that rising PII premiums justified the way it operated.
As is usual with dispersed/fee-share firms, lawyers retain the lion’s share of work they introduce to the practice – put by Mr Taylor at 75-85% – with a slightly lower sum for work provided by the firm.
He said: “What makes us different in the market is that we will provide our lawyers with a growing stream of quality work across most areas of business law including matters such as corporate, commercial, employment, as well as matters for our corporate clients employees such as personal injury, family, wills and probate.
“In our regulated practice, lawyers have the freedom to set their rate depending on the duration and complexity of a matter. They also have the option to work within our unregulated practice.
J Pearlman closed its doors on 31 May after being in business for over 50 years. Solicitor Allan Becker has now joined 360 Legal. Even though it had faced no claims, PII premiums had reached an “unmanageable” level, Mr Taylor said.
He explained: “It is distressing to see a thriving firm with an excellent reputation serving their local community being forced to close its doors.
“The crippling costs of PII continues to have a devastating effect on UK solicitors and their customers. It is an issue that remains one of the biggest threats to smaller law firms and the outcome will be that only the largest of firms can afford the hikes in PII, resulting in less choice and higher costs for consumers.”
Mr Becker added: “My father-in-law set up J Pearlman as a sole practitioner in 1971, he has now retired. It is obviously very disappointing to close the business which I joined in 2002, but I’m delighted that we can continue to support our clients.
“In fact, other than a new email address, my clients will see little change since I remain based in North-West London. In addition, they now have access to the full breadth of services and expertise available at 360 Law Group.”
Bradleys Property & Probate Lawyers is a firm based in Frimley, Surrey run by Nigel Bradley and regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancer.
Mr Bradley said: “I’d been looking to retire for the past couple of years and spent too much time in numerous fruitless discussions. In contrast, Bob’s innovative and transparent approach to business and his use of the latest technology to streamline services really attracted me.
“I like the fact that he is a disruptor, not accepting the status quo but always looking for ways to do things better.”
He said he would remain with 360 Law Group during the transition and remain on the board of the Society of Licenced Conveyancers.
“I’m keen to drive innovations in the conveyancing sector and on probate issues to benefit both the profession and the consumer.”