A quick metamorphosis and it'll all be fine.
Living up to its name, the Metamorph legal group is set to change beyond recognition by putting three of its firms into administration, placing a fourth into a company voluntary arrangement, making redundancies, and renaming itself, RollOnFriday can reveal.
Metamorph owns a network of law firms that is rapidly shrinking in the face of multiple winding up petitions and complaints from staff that it is not paying them on time.
Three of its legal brands - Linder Myers, SLC Solicitors, and Donnelly & Elliot Solicitors - are owned through a Metamorph subsidiary called MLL Limited, which trades as Verisona Law and was issued with a winding up petition by HMRC scheduled to be heard earlier this week.
Beaumont Legal, a conveyancing practice owned by Metamorph via another subsidiary called BPL Solicitors, is subject to a separate winding up petition courtesy of estate agency Connells.
Metamorph's reluctance to speak to the press or staff has led to conjecture swirling among its people. "The staff just have no idea what's going on at all" one senior staff member told RollOnFriday on the basis of anonymity. The individual, who has just left the business, confirmed, "I haven't been paid for the last month".
In an all-staff email this week, the Metamorph Group Board acknowledged that "you all remain very concerned about the future and really want to know what is happening".
"We also recognise a lack of knowledge inevitably leads to rumour", it told staff, stating that "we wish to set the record straight on a number of issues".
The email, leaked to ROF, revealed that Metamorph expects the winding up petition against MLL to be suspended this week, and that within the fortnight it will sell the assets of MLL's three subsidiary firms to Knowles Benning, a Bedfordshire firm it acquired in the summer.
That will be followed "immediately" by the appointment of an administrator for MLL. The board reassured staff that "This is a standard process", which it is, although so is donning oxygen masks when a plane cabin depressurises at 40,000 feet.
Clients of Verisona Law have received an email, a copy of which has been seen by ROF, explaining that it will cease trading on Friday 25th November, and requesting permission to transfer their client funds to Knowles Benning.
Beaumont Legal is now closed and will enter a CVA "immediately", said the board. Its staff have already been transferred to either BPL or another entity in the Metamorph web of companies called Metamorph Group Services. But they are going to have to move again, this time to Knowles Benning, because in the next two weeks both companies will also be put into administration, said the board, which emphasised that the SRA was "fully aware of the actions to be taken".
Metamorph has told staff the upcoming changes mean that "looking forwards our business will be different", which is putting it mildly.
"It will be smaller", with "a much lower cost base and fewer offices", said the board. Flagging imminent redundancies, it said "this means less people in management and support services", and that "all those affected will be advised as soon as possible".
There will also be a "revamped" group board and a new CEO to replace the much-criticised Tony Stockdale. And a "hiving up" of "other subsidiaries", which may mean that several of Metamorph's remaining law firm brands will disappear. "One of the benefits of this being much more straight forward [sic] arrangements with conveyancing lender panels", spun management in its email to staff.
Having tossed a live grenade into the room, the board told everyone to get their heads down and carry on working: "We recognise inevitably there will be some disruption but let's all try to keep this to a minimum please", it chided.
"There is now a clear way forwards for our group", concluded the board, and "having had the opportunity to learn some hard lessons" - and "despite the inevitable challenges ahead including a probably prolonged recession" - there was now "the chance to rebuild our business".
The board slid in the news that it was going to change identities at the bottom of its wide-ranging update, noting that it was going to "replace the Metamorph brand".
Shedding its tainted image epitomises the company's fresh direction, although when ROF asked Metamorph what it was metamorphosing into, the company declined to comment. Help it out by suggesting a fitting new name in the comments. Just remember that Snickers, Cif, Starburst, Meta, and Aviva have all been taken.