David Carr – senior associate – on the insurance sector

From a legal perspective, 2011 could easily be labelled as the “Year of Insurance”.  There have been two mergers creating two behemoths in insurance practice.  In addition to this, most firms specialising in insurance work have seen increases in turnover.

In virtually any other year, the merger of Davies Arnold Cooper and Beachcroft would have been the biggest story; however, this was trumped by the merger of Clyde & Co and Barlow Lyde & Gilbert.  Adopting the Clyde & Co name, the firm will become a top 10 practice with a turnover of over £300 million and full coverage in all aspects of insurance work.

Elsewhere, the news is similarly positive with established insurance specialists such as Keoghs, DWF, Hill Dickinson, Kennedys, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Weightmans and Greenwoods all reporting growth in turnover for the last financial year.

Parabis crashed into The Lawyer Top 200 for the first time revealing turnover of £100m!  This was helped in some part by their merger with Everatt & Co. which was driven largely by their mutual relationship with QBE.

Personal injury litigation continues to dominate the insurance sector in the regions and the North West. Greater Manchester and Liverpool are both at the epicentre.   The Personal Injury Awards 2011 saw Peter Walmsley of Clyde & Co in Manchester named Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year; Bolton based Keoghs LLP won Defendant Personal Injury Team of the Year and Neil Southern also of Keoghs LLP was awarded for Outstanding Case of the Year.

Insurance fraud departments have also continued to grow.  Established departments at Keoghs, Beachcroft, Hill Dickinson, DWF and Berrymans Lace Mawer have all expanded and this looks set to continue despite the insurance industry preventing more fraud than ever. In 2010, there was £919 million worth of leakage from undetected or poorly handled fraud claims and this continues to substantially impact on insurers’ profitability. Industry estimates show that general insurance fraud costs around £2 billion per year.