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Led by Philip Holden, drydensfairfax solicitors, a specialist firm operating exclusively in debt recovery, ‘maintains a strong customer-centric culture and is flexible and responsive to changing demands’. With expertise in secured and unsecured recovery, the group is regularly instructed by lenders, debt purchasers, financial institutions and central government departments in cases that are on the verge of litigation. The firm ‘continually invests in its staff and systems’, which has led to pioneering IT solutions to identify at an early stage debtors that may have trouble repaying their debts. Additionally, the group has recently created an intensive digital customer account service, where customers can view their account details and see and make payments. Jo Pearson heads Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) compliance, while Gurchan Jandu specialises in Solicitors Regulation Authorithy compliance. Tim Pope is an insolvency specialist, Phil Harling is director of property and Nahed Ali heads the litigation practice.

‘Punching well above its weight in this area’, Shoosmiths LLP’s recoveries services group is ‘extremely reliable in what can be testing and fraught situations’. The group handles the full-range of recoveries and has dedicated partners handling recovery in each of its key areas: asset-based lending, secured and unsecured consumer lending, secured and unsecured commercial and corporate lending, mortgage shortfall and B2B debt. As an example of the group’s work, Melanie Chell acts for Avelo Limited on the management of the run-off of a large portfolio of sub-prime motor finance agreements, containing over 4,000 accounts. Additional clients include Tesco Bank, Ormsby Street and Close Brothers Motor Finance. The department has seen a number of new arrivals at partner level in 2016; David Farnell, a recoveries litigator, joined from Addleshaw Goddard, David Pacey joined from the FCA whileKaren Savage and Paula Swain both joined from Lester Aldridge LLP. Waine Mannix heads the recoveries services group.

Recognised for ‘making the lives of in-house counsel considerably easier’, Clarke Willmott LLP provides ‘an impressive degree of commercial insight’ to a vast range of clients, including corporates, government departments, financial institutions and managing agents. In 2016, the department extended its mega-contract with The Insolvency Service for the collection of income payment agreements, book debts and antecedent/specialist recoveries under The Insolvency Act; this work ranges from high-volume recoveries to litigation. Jane Dunlop and Kathryn Quinton are long-time practitioners in the practice group and are instructed by such clients as Ageas Insurance and The Football Association Group, the latter of which instructs the team to recover unpaid seat licence fees for Wembley Stadium. Senior associate Philip Roberts, who delivers ‘proactive recovery solutions’, is retained by a UK building merchant to handle complex recovery matters. Karen Chapman is an active associate in the department and leads the firm’s collection work for Viridor Limited.

Devonshires Solicitors LLP has had an exciting 2016, with the establishment of its debt collection centre, which allows the firm to compete in the same market as debt collection agencies, while still remaining active in subsequent proceedings, when necessary. The firm has also seen increased instructions from national and international clients. Though the group has an 85% recovery rate before proceedings are issued, it also handles litigation and department head Matthew Hennessy-Gibbs acted for Lawlords of London in a disputed invoice matter that did proceed to court. Jim Varley is an insolvency specialist in the team and key clients include Sodexo, Reuters Limited and Kone.

From the issue of process through to enforcement, Irwin Mitchell has been handling bespoke debt collection for a significant national client base for over 60 years. Barry Hogg is the firm’s debt recovery manager and has extensive experience of acting in Companies Court and Bankruptcy Court. Recently, the department has handled stand-alone, complex debt recovery matters for clients such as Crown Record Management, PayPoint Network, Charles Wilson Engineers and C Brewer & Sons. Solicitor Jane Begley has experience in debt enforcement and insolvency issues and Jimmy Thomas and Laura Rooks are also contacts in the practice group. The team is also instructed by BNP Paribas Real Estate Advisory and Property Management, a FTSE 250 company and significant government agencies.

The department at Moon Beever combines a high-volume collection outfit based in Essex with a specialist, solicitor-led recoveries practice based in London. The high-volume collections team continues to put particular emphasis on efficient IT services, which has drawn clients such as British Gas. In addition to handling volume collections, the London solicitors’ team has represented British Gas in relief appeals and debt litigation in 2016. Frances Coulson heads the insolvency and business recovery department and has handled debt recovery on behalf of government agencies, debt purchasers and local authorities, such as London Borough of Newham. She is also a member of industry organisations and has taken an active lobbying role concerning debt-related legislation. Graham McPhie and Charles Robinson are also key contacts in the practice group; additional clients include Arc Legal and The Insolvency Service.

‘Responsive and informative form beginning to end’, DWF handles volume debt recovery and bespoke cases, including strategic enforcement, contested debt litigation and insolvency-related proceedings. In addition to its focus on technological innovation, the team has concentrated on expanding its international recovery offering, having recently been appointed to the European Collections and Enforcement Network. Leeds-based David Scottow heads the firm’s debt recovery practice and has extensive experience in debt litigation and insolvency. James Perry is providing ongoing assistance to a plc in relation to those debt recovery proceedings in which judgments are brought against the company, and has also been involved in debt cases involving criminal claims. Another key contact is Neil Jinks, the firm’s commercial and client development director, who has extensive experience in credit management, collections and civil recoveries. In 2016, the firm has picked up several significant new clients including Scottish Water Business Stream.

Lovetts Ltd is a long-time high-volume debt recovery firm, which has continued to strengthen its profile in the debt litigation space. The boutique team specialises in heading-off potential conflicts before they begin, having immediate success after a Letter Before Action in 85% of the department’s cases; however, the team also defended debt litigation cases, including those with international aspects. Managing director Michael Higgins is an experienced litigator and has also played a substantial role in growing the firm’s high-volume recovery capabilities. Cassandra McCarthy is another manager in the commercial litigation group. The team has acted for FTSE companies and SMEs, and has also been instructed by major law firms in debt collection matters. Charles Wilson and Paul McCulloch are additional contacts at the firm.

Optima Legal is the legal arm of Capita plc, and has capabilities in a range of debt litigation, handling start-to-finish secured and unsecured recoveries, in addition to property mortgage-related services for a long-standing client base in the public and private sectors. As IT becomes ever more important in the debt recovery space, the firm operates an online, secured client portal, which provides each client with an overview of its entire caseload. Craig Underwood is the firm’s director of legal services, while Jonathan Preston is a solicitor handling recoveries and litigation. Scott Nodder focuses on complex litigation, which has included such matters as disputed debt recovery, regulatory disputes and complex possession. Clients have included government entities such as Companies House.

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Legal Developments in London for Debt recovery

  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

    - Macfarlanes

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