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York office closure puts Minster Law staff at risk

Centralising legal services will deliver ‘a step change’ in performance, says MD

13 March 2017

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Personal injury specialist Minster Law will close its York office next year in a cost-cutting move which could see some employees lose their jobs.

The Yorkshire-based firm, which employs over 620 people, will bring the business under one roof in 18 months’ time at its existing office in Wakefield – 30 miles south-west of York.

Michael Warren, managing director of Minister Law, commented on the decision: ‘Centralising our legal services and support functions will create a consistent experience for customers and ensure a closer and more productive relationship between our teams, and I fully expect that Minster Law will deliver a step change in performance as a result.’

The firm said ‘a small number of roles in the facilities team at York’ will be placed at risk but all other York-based employees will retain their positions if they are happy to move to Wakefield. Colleagues who choose not to move have 18 months to decide and will be supported by the firm.

Minster Law’s latest available accounts reveal that in the 12 months up to the year ending 30 June 2015 the firm made a post-tax loss of £28m – significantly higher than the £4.4m from the year before. Its turnover fell to £25m in 2014/15, more than half of the £52m recorded the year before. Losses on ordinary activities pre-tax were up from £5m in 2013/14 to £35m the following year.

The losses followed the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which reduced the fees that solicitors could receive from personal injury claims. This led the firm to seek greater operational efficiencies, including a ‘substantial investment in people and technology to transform its service offering’.

Asked by Solicitors Journal whether the firm had incurred any more losses since 2015 that may have led to the office closure, a spokesperson said: ‘Our decision is about investment rather than savings. Since 2015 we have, and continue to, pursue a proactive business transformation programme to support current and future commercial success.’

Over recent months the government has proposed reforms that will increase the small-claims limit to £5,000 for whiplash claims and to £2,000 for other personal injury claims. In August 2016 Minister Law’s Warren said his firm was ‘bolstered to face future challenges’, including this increase.

Minster Law’s chief operating officer, Shirley Woolham, said the business had evolved in recent years: ‘Over the past three years, we’ve embraced change in order to strengthen our business despite uncertainties in the personal injury sector. Improvements in open-plan office spaces, streamlined management structures, and agile working have all contributed to making a single Yorkshire site a reality.

‘Housing our Yorkshire team in one location and using the efficiencies this creates to continue to invest in innovative resources means we are able to deliver what our clients need through streamlined file-handling processes and innovative online support functions.’

The firm added that moving to one site would increase its access to a broader pool of legal talent: ‘Wakefield’s proximity to the M1 and M62 opens our catchment to commuters from a broad geographical area, while still being accessible for our people in Wakefield and York.’

Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal

matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @lex_progress

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