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Cobbetts goes into administration

Plans to sell its business and assets in a ‘short time frame’  

30 January 2013

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Top-100 UK law firm Cobbetts is preparing to go into administration to sell its business and assets.

Citing difficult trading conditions, the firm will be closing its offices in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester.

In a statement, the firm said: “Having regard to the difficult trading conditions in the professional services sector we have reluctantly concluded that the appropriate course at this time is for the firm to obtain the protection of an interim statutory moratorium to enable a sale of the business and assets of the firm to be concluded in a short time frame.

“We are also working closely with our regulator, the SRA, with all stakeholders and our professional advisers to achieve the best outcome for creditors, clients, employees and members. We remain confident that we will be able to provide a further positive update in the very near future.”

Cobbetts had previously been in merger talks with top-100 UK law firm DWF, but these were called off at the end of January 2012 due to “uncertain market conditions”.

At the end of last year, Cobbetts reported fee income of over £20 million for the half year to November 2012, consistent with the previous year.

Managing partner Nick Carr said at the time: “We’re pleased with our results, operating in what continues to be a challenging economic environment.

“As forecast, there has been no real growth in the UK legal market over the last six months. Considering the prevailing market conditions, we set and met a prudent but still challenging budget, forecasting fee generation in line with the market and seeking to align expenditure to anticipated income.

“Our half year results ensure we remain on target, and new client wins mean that trading predictions for the next six months are strong. We expect to meet our financial targets by year end.”

Michael Shaw, who had served as Cobbetts’ managing partner for 16 years and led it through four successful mergers between 2002 and 2005, retired from the firm in May 2012.

“The decision to retire from my firm and my role as managing partner was not difficult. In fact it was obvious that it was the right time,” said Shaw in a Managing Partner blog post.

“At the age of 56, logic dictated that I was more likely to establish a business selling experience I had gleaned from 16 years of leading the development of a law firm than if I left it until after I was 60.”

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