Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rise in number of distressed law firms

New figures show that the number of law firms in distress has risen dramatically.

This could be made worse by the introduction of alternative business structures
(ABSs) under the new Legal Services Act, according to research by Begbies Traynor.

The firm has issued its quarterly ‘red flag alert’ which shows that 163 professional
services businesses were facing ‘critical’ distress in the last quarter of 2011.
This is an increase of 61% compared to the same period in 2010 and Begbies Traynor
says the majority of these were legal firms.

According to the alert, the last quarter of 2011 saw some non-legal businesses
finalise plans to offer legal services ahead of 3 January 2012, when applications
for such practices could officially be received.

However, while the Legal Services Act presents opportunities for non-legal firms,
many law practices have found themselves ‘floundering’ as clients cut back on their
legal fees spending, the alert adds.

Michael Bernstein, a partner at Harris Lipman, said many smaller legal firms were
left wondering what to do next due to the uncertainty raised by the Legal Services

He warned that this was not a viable strategy and urged firms to make a positive
decision about their future, rather than simply waiting to see what happens.

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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Insolvency Practitioners Association elects new Deputy Vice-President

The Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA), the membership body and regulator for those specialising in insolvency practice, has chosen Mark Fry (pictured), national head of Begbies Traynor Group’s restructuring and insolvency division, as the next Deputy Vice-President. He will subsequently take up the office of president in April 2014.

Mark brings a wealth of experience to the role having practised in the insolvency and restructuring sector for more than 20 years. His expertise in handling high profile cases such as Alphasteel, Southampton Football Club and Silverjet Airways has further enhanced his reputation as one of the leading practitioners in his field.

Mark has long been a supporter of the IPA and its member services, he has been a member since 1994 and for the last four years has served as a director on its governing board which is responsible for determining policy and strategy. He previously served on its Membership & Authorisation, Examinations & Training, and Finance & General Purposes committees.

Mark Fry comments, “The IPA plays a vital role not only in raising standards within the insolvency profession, but also in widening knowledge and understanding of the value of the work of insolvency practitioners.

“I have enjoyed a long relationship with the IPA and it is a real honour to be elected as Deputy Vice-President. It’s important that those with first-hand knowledge in insolvency practice play an active role in working within the professional bodies that shape policy.”

David Kerr, Chief Executive of the IPA, comments, “It’s great to have Mark as Deputy Vice-President. Over the years he has given his time and energy to the IPA and we value the attributes and experience he brings. With so many ongoing debates about current issues within the insolvency sector, the contribution of leading experts like Mark will be crucial.”

With more than 20 years’ experience as an insolvency practitioner, Mark was originally a founding partner in Taylor Gotham & Fry, a specialist boutique practice in the corporate recovery sector, which he sold to Begbies Traynor in 2005. He is now a member of the plc board of Begbies Traynor Group and is the national head of its restructuring and insolvency practice. During his time at Begbies Traynor, he has developed a separate but integrated restructuring and banking practice; this part of the business has worked in both debtor and creditor led turnaround situations. Mark is also CEO of BTG Mesirow Financial Consulting, Begbies Traynor Group’s joint venture with American business Mesirow Financial Consulting.

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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Administration fees courting controversy

Companies which could have been rescued face the prospect of closure and unnecessary job losses because of a Government refusal to introduce new laws, according to R3, the trade body that represents more than 300 insolvency practitioners in Yorkshire.

R3 says recent court cases have added to the financial burden facing administrators when they are called in to rescue a company, making it less economic in some cases.

In the past, administrators were liable for the trading costs like wages, rent, rates and new supplies that followed their appointment, but new court judgments mean they may also be liable to meet other rent and pensions obligations of the collapsed company.

R3 wants new laws that clearly state what charges administrators are liable to pay.

Yorkshire chairman and Irwin Mitchell partner Andrew Walker said: “These court rulings and the continued uncertainty has had an unhelpful impact on the UK’s rescue culture, with far reaching, adverse consequences for the UK economy.

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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Portugal borrowing costs fall after ECB action

Portugal’s borrowing costs declined at a successful auction of €1.5bn of shorter-term government debt, after the European Central Bank intervened in the country’s sovereign debt market earlier this week to subdue soaring bond yields.

The six-month notes due in July 2012 were issued at an average yield of 4.463 per cent, according to Portugal’s IGCP debt management agency, compared with an average yield of 4.74 per cent at a previous auction on January 18.

The Portuguese debt agency also sold €750m of three-month bills due in May at an average yield of 4.068 per cent, down from an average yield of 4.346 per cent at a previous auction on January 18.

Concerns that the sharp lurch in Portugal’s borrowing costs could lead to contagion spurred the ECB’s intervention. Its action has helped send bond yields, which move inversely to prices, tumbling over the past two days. Portuguese 10-year bond yields fell as much as 161 basis points on Tuesday, the biggest daily fall this year, as the ECB bought debt for the second day in a row.

The 10-year benchmark bond yield fell 80bp to 14.1 per cent on Wednesday, down from a peak of 16.7 per cent earlier this week.

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