A conveyancing firm has agreed to be merged with a growing legal business after reporting that insurance costs more than doubled this year.
North west London firm J Pearlman closed in May and agreed to join 360 Law Group after the cost of indemnity cover more than doubled in a year. Solicitor Allan Becker, whose father-in-law set up the firm in 1971, said the increases in PII had become unmanageable.
The 360 Law Group, a top 200 virtual firm that solely retains five-year plus qualified solicitors, says this and a second acquisition announced today are the first of three of four planned over the coming months.
Chief executive and general counsel Robert Taylor has also spoken out about the mounting insurance costs which are forcing some firms to seek an exit from the market despite them being in otherwise good shape.
Taylor said: ‘I am delighted to welcome Allan and his clients to the 360 family, and we will ensure that all their legal needs are met with the same high quality and personal attention. But it is also 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.’
Becker, whose firm was regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, added: ‘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.’ He added that ‘Other than a new email address, my clients will see little change since I remain based in northwest London. In addition, they now have access to the full breadth of services and expertise available at 360 Law Group.’
The 360 Law Group also announced it had merged with Bradleys Property & Probate Lawyers, run by Nigel Bradley, which has been operating in Frimley since 1991.
Bradley said: ‘The union of the two firms is an excellent fit. My clients include families who have remained loyal to the firm over the decades, recommending us to their friends and relations. I envisage very little change for them, other than their services will be enhanced.
‘I will remain with 360 Law Group during the transition and will also maintain my role 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.’
The increases in PII premiums have been acutely felt across small firms as the insurance market has hardened in the past two years. The Legal Services Board, the oversight regulator, consulted on the issue at the end of last year, saying that current costs could reduce the number of legal professionals operating in the market, affecting consumers’ ability to access justice.
Although not necessarily directly linked to PII costs, the number of regulated solicitor firms has generally been in a downward spiral in recent years, dropping 4% since 2020. The number of sole practitioners has fallen 15% in that period. Almost 600 firms closed in 2021, of which 59% ceased practising altogether.