John White, head of BL Claims, on the firm, its future and ambitions.
John, can you give us a quick summary of your career?
I trained as a doctor and worked in the NHS before deciding to use my medical experience to train as a clinical negligence solicitor. I have spent much of my career at Blake Lapthorn. Over a period that’s now approaching two decades, I’ve dealt with many catastrophic and fatal cases and successfully run a large number of high value claims. The work is challenging but highly rewarding.
What’s your current role?
I’m now head of BL Claims Solicitors, with my own significant caseload but also with responsibility for managing the team. My responsibilities in this are varied and include chairing case meetings, recruitment, training, supervision and HR issues. I enjoy the variety – and one particularly rewarding aspect is training, supporting and bringing on junior members of staff.
How and why did the new BL Claims Solicitors brand come about?
BL Claims Solicitors was created following the merger of Blake Lapthorn and Morgan Cole in July this year. It’s a new brand and is independent from Blake Morgan although the two firms can - and will work together; for example, with BL Claims Solicitors handling claims and Blake Morgan specialist teams dealing with issues such as probate, conveyancing and trusts arising from a successful claim. The merger was a good opportunity to give our claims operation its own identity and allow it to continue to grow. The claims specialists from Blake Lapthorn have formed the core of BL Claims Solicitors and a recruitment programme is under way.
What kind of work is it specialising in?
BL Claims Solicitors has three key areas of specialism: clinical negligence, personal injury and travel claims. Our lawyers have a long heritage in these areas and an excellent reputation for handling complex, high level claims. With clinical negligence and personal injury cases we have particular expertise in catastrophic claims. Daniel Scognamiglio heads up our travel claims team and is a specialist in multi-jurisdictional disputes and travel insurance litigation.
How many people are working in the business and at what levels?
We currently have more than 50 staff who specialise solely in clinical negligence, personal injury and travel claims. We’re also a growing firm and we have already made some key appointments including David Healy, who joined us as a partner and as head of the personal injury team. At a senior level he joins myself, Daniel, Kym Provan, who specialises in clinical negligence, and Alison McClure, a senior Blake Morgan partner and is non-executive director of BL Claims Solicitors.
What’s the reaction been like since the launch both from colleagues in the profession and from clients?
The launch was a very busy and exciting time for us and the new brand has been well-received by the profession and clients. It feels like a fresh start but with the advantage of being able to draw on many years of experience in our specialist areas. We are now continuing to build awareness of the brand – our watchwords are “expertise through empathy” and we really want to make the public aware that we have a hugely-experienced team here who engage with clients and give sympathetic, jargon-free advice.
What are the aims of the firm over the next five years?
We are a growing firm and recruitment is very much part of the plan. Our focus at the moment is on recruiting key staff with the expert skills we need to deliver the high levels of service that we expect. We will continue to grow the firm and invest in it, always ensuring that we deliver the best possible service and build on our reputation as a national firm with experienced teams.
The PI and clinical negligence sectors have gone through huge changes over the past few years. How are you finding things now?
The claims market is fast-moving and we have seen many, many changes in recent years. We believe that people place great importance on expertise and experience, particularly when it comes to high value claims. Whilst we’re always aware of what’s happening in the market our focus is always on our clients and on ensuring that the service we give is of high quality, straightforward and free of jargon. Whatever happens elsewhere, it is our reputation that is our biggest asset.
What are the main opportunities and threats to you as a business?
For BL Claims Solicitors it’s really all about the opportunities. Although we have a new brand and we’re a growing business, we also have a wealth of experience behind us and that opens up many avenues for us as a business. We certainly have the opportunity here to grow our teams further and to bring in high quality lawyers – that’s happening already and we expect it to continue. As with any firm there will be challenges to face but we are well-positioned to overcome them.
What are your predictions for the claims market?
I think we’ll continue to see growing diversity in the market but there will still only be a small number of firms at the top end, with the reputation for successfully handling high value claims. Our task is to build on the success of our teams in that space – it’s about results, reputation and excellent client service and that’s where our focus will be as we grow.