Posted Mar 12, 2013 04:46 pm CDT
Some 250 lawyers and staff were told to clear their desks Monday and go home as regulators “intervened” in the operation of a British law firm.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority said it acted at Blakemores Solicitors, which has offices in Birmingham and Leamington, to protect the interests of the firm’s current, former and/or potential clients, including any trust for which partners may have been responsible, the Warwick Courier reports.
A spokesman for the SRA explained that the so-called intervention “means the SRA has closed a firm with immediate effect. We will stop the firm from operating, take possession of all documents and papers held by the firm including clients’ paper, and take possession of all money held by the firm including clients’ money.”
The law firm had been in business for 50 years and is one of the best-known in Birmingham.
Founded in 1961 as a property conveyancing firm, Blakemores began a program of rapid expansion in 2002. In recent years, Blakemores was at the forefront of marketing consumer legal services, which it branded as Lawyers2You, spending 5 million pounds to set up outlets at airports, shopping centers, festivals and sports events in the West Midlands and establish a hub for handling client calls at its headquarters in Birmingham, according to the Birmingham Mail. and the Law Society Gazette.
A notice on the Blakemores web page says the intervention took place Monday and involved the appointment of another law firm by the SRA to handle its affairs.
The Gazette attributes the closing of Blakemores to what the publication calls “the latest casualty of a crisis in the personal injury sector.” It followed the financial crisis of recent years, reduced funding of legal aid and a change in British law that allows law firms to be owned by nonattorneys and marketed in combination with other businesses.
A legal consultant who had earlier praised the Lawyers2You model speculated that the firm had overstretched.
“Ultimately it’s a business of cash. The theory was absolutely right, but you need deep pockets to make it work,” said Viv Williams, who serves as chief executive of the 360 Legal Group.
The Gazette said it had attempted without success to contact both the managing partner of Blakemores and the interim manager now overseeing administration. Calls made to the law firm Monday went to voicemail after a couple of rings, the article notes.
Blakemores is reportedly one of the largest firms ever closed by the SRA.