The personal injury market isn’t the first place that you would look at when looking for success stories at the moment.
It has been besieged by reforms that have hurt operations across the board. And there is no sign of the Government taking a step back in its efforts to enact further change. This has led to lower profits, smaller PI departments and lawyers leaving behind the sector in droves.
But amid this maelstrom, Fletchers Solicitors has managed to ride a wave of almost unparalleled success.
The firm reported a nine per cent rise in revenue in 2015, taking it from £11million in 2013/14 to £12million in 2014/15. The firm is aiming to achieve a turnover in excess of £20million by 2018 when its large amount of medical negligence cases, which usually take three years to complete, reach settlement.
It has also been named in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for list.
Claims Media recently spoke to Ed Fletcher, the CEO of Fletchers Solicitors, about how it has bucked the trend.
Claims Media (CM): How happy are you with your results in 2015?
Ed Fletcher (EF): We’re really happy. We’re also ahead of our projection for the financial year which is fantastic.
These are tough times in the PI world and no doubt they are going to become more challenging with the proposed reforms to general damages for whiplash, the small claims court and fixed costs in medical negligence.
But bearing in mind the landscape, we couldn’t be happier with those results so far.
CM: What do you put your growth down to? Is it the range of brands that you operate under, for example, such as Patient Claim Line?
EF: It is partly down to that, and also the fact that the strength of the Fletcher’s brand with the general public and the profession has grown significantly in the last few months. So we’re getting a lot of direct referral from injured people.
We’ve found that our other brands are speaking to injured people in a way that resonates with them. So that’s part of our success and growth in the last 12 to 18 months.
Also, very unfortunately, the amount of work that is available due to the negligence on behalf of a strained NHS is increasing.
Therefore we have seen a correlation, over and above the efforts that we have made in our various marketing ventures. It’s pretty clear that the growth isn’t all down to fantastic positioning of our products.
Growth isn’t solely down to medical negligence however. With our bike book, we’ve been number one in that sector for more than a decade and that’s just got stronger and stronger. And our serious injury team is over forty lawyers now and they’re really picking up a momentum of their own. So certainly growth in those two areas has lead to the fantastic position that Fletchers is in now.
CM: How do you manage expansion at such a rate, in particular the increase in staff numbers?
EF: It’s not straightforward managing organic expansion.
The starting point is getting a stronger management and leadership team around you.
My mantra has always been ‘surround myself with brilliant people who make me look good’!
Managing expansion at such a rate has been a really good philosophy, because if we had poor quality managers and leaders in the organisation then I think we would have struggled to bring in the quality of fee earner and of processes and systems that we have. So it always comes back to the people.
We’ve managed it with a brilliant People Team, headed up by Sara Duxbury who have been so innovative in the way that they’ve stitched our values into the whole recruitment process.
So we’re recruiting Fletchers type people right from the start. People who share our beliefs and our passion.
What I’ve seen in the last two years is people that I would have loved to have hand picked are being brought into place by the People Team. And all credit for that goes to them.
CM: Could you tell us a bit more about your year of values? What does it mean and how does it work?
EF: We take our values incredibly seriously. They aren’t something that you stick on a coaster. We live and breathe them everyday and we recruit off the back of them.
But equally as important to us is that the values of Trust, Performance, Development and Innovation are intertwined into the fabric of all our people.
And so we split this year into quarters and we’re going to concentrate specifically on one of our core values in each quartet.
So the first quarter has been the one of innovation. So there’s been lots of competitions to encourage an innovative way of thinking and working environment.
We’re getting different groups of the organisation to sit down and think creatively about embracing innovation within the working environment. That could be a small change in part of the process in the way that a fee earner has had a brain wave about or it could be something to do with the way in which we lay out the break out rooms.
It’s as diverse as that.
That will continue throughout the year in each quarter, with the other values of Performance, Development and Trust.
It’s actually quite fun doing it this way, which is important. If I’m not having fun and wanting to come into work everyday, then I don’t expect anyone else to.
Fun must be part of our working day and our philosophy. I suppose that has helped us get into the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for list.
We’ve managed to create a culture where our employees are happy to work here and this is not only recognised by the Sunday Times but also our Investors in People Gold Award as well. That’s really important to us, treating people fairly.
CM: Are you concerned that your ambition to become a top 100 firm by 2018 could be scuppered by talk of fixed costs in clinical negligence?
EF: It’s not made it any easier, certainly, but it hasn’t scuppered those ambitions at all.
In fact we revisited the strategy in February and have come out with even more clarity about sticking to our guns and our strategy and tactics. They’ve become more relevant than ever.
The model that we have created has fixed costs in mind. We feel that if anyone can deal with the reforms it will be us, marrying process and sophistication with technical legal brilliance. We’re more confident than ever.
We may have to work very hard for it, but I believe that with all revolutionary reform comes opportunity.
And Fletchers is absolutely hell bent that we are not only one of those organisations that not only spots those opportunities, but embraces them as well.