waterfall

Overextension and over the edge.


A personal injury firm based in Sheffield has given notice of its intention to appoint an administrator two years after it bought up another collapsed firm’s work.

The SSB Group's headcount and liabilities increased rapidly following its acquisiton of thousands of cavity wall insulation cases and mortgage mis-selling matters in 2021 from Pure Legal, another northern PI firm, after it fell into administration.

SSB comprised 113 people in 2021, 162 last year and now employs upwards of 220 people. A handful of those – ten, according to the SRA - are solicitors and the firm has two offices in Sheffield and Wolverhampton.

An SSB insider told RollOnFriday earlier this week that numerous staff had already been told via email that their jobs had been terminated.

In a statement the firm confirmed that SSB Group, trading as SSB Law, had submitted a Notice of Intention to appoint administrators.

“The business has suffered ongoing financial challenges and has been marketed for sale in order to secure fresh investment”, it said.

“Directors of the Company are currently working with the proposed administrators to facilitate an acceptable outcome for clients and the company is in contact with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure all standards and regulations are met. All clients will be contacted in due course and are not required to take any further action.”

SSB Law billed itself as a leading UK dispute resolution firm and ran claims including cavity wall insulation, personal injury, road traffic accidents, medical and dental negligence and japanese knotweed.

It was co-founded in 2007 by its CEO, Jeremy Brooke, whose profile states that he "was unable to carve out his dream career in the Royal Marines and moved from job to job before finally stumbling upon law".

According to SSB's website its "fast-paced" approach  enabled it to "grow and flourish”, spawning a constellation of businesses under the SSB Group umbrella including SSB Insurance, SSB Financial and SSB Compliance.

The company’s accounts for 2022 showed that following its purchase of Pure Legal’s work the amount SSB owed to creditors leapt from £2.5m to £48m.

The huge new debt comprised £30m in loans and £15.3m owed to trade creditors, and although it also inherited IOUs whose worth was pegged at £46m, they appear to have been attached to cavity wall work which hasn’t paid out as hoped.

A red flag appeared last month when it was revealed in court that an expert witness had refused to work on SSB’s cavity matters because it had failed to pay him.

“SSB are now telling me they have no money to pay my long overdue invoice until the end of September. They will ‘try’ and pay in two weeks’ time. I have advised them that even though I have a duty to the tribunal/court I am forced to withdraw my services. I simply cannot work for free”, he said.

“I am forced to reasonably conclude that there is no guarantee that SSB Law have, or will have, the funds to pay for my firm’s services” he said. Accurately, as it turns out.

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Comments

Anon 24 November 23 08:34

Rupert Jackson, you must be proud. You have destroyed access to justice.

Three - it's the magic number. 24 November 23 08:37

Never work for a law firm that has a three letter acronym - TMW, BLP, DWF, BLG, DLA - WTF.

Spotty Lizard 24 November 23 09:08

@Three - it's the magic number

Another pointless three-letter acronym springs to mind: SRA. What on earth is our regulator doing to control and fix this mess? We might as well be a de-regulated industry.

Anonymous 24 November 23 10:00

"SSB comprised 113 people in 2021, 162 last year and now employs upwards of 220 people. A handful of those – ten, according to the SRA - are solicitors"

Bluntly, the profession shouldn't be blighted by firms that run on this model. They're just conveyor belts for spurious and vexatious claims. The whole model is to send out threats of litigation using copy-paste templates, ignore anything that gets written in response, and use the threat of litigation to try and coerce a settlement out of the defendant. Clients get a rubbish service, defendants feel (quite rightly) that they are being bombarded by absurd claims over trivialities and which are being pushed forwards by morons who have no ability to engage with constructive responses.

It brings the whole profession into disrepute and has no wider social value.

Ignore the absurd suggestion that these kind of bulk vexatious litigation factories have anything to do with 'access to justice' (no justice is involved) and regulate the lot out of existence. Any firm with more than two admin staff per qualified fee earner (with a possible exemption for firms under 10 people max) should have its licence revoked.

Go work in Morissons, you'll be doing more good.

Spotty Lizard 24 November 23 10:40

Anonymous 10:00

I completely agree. Having seen repeated examples of the work product of some of these 'firms', as well as the very considerable havoc they can wreak on clients' lives when they lead them into no-hope litigation and then abandon them (in one case having screwed up the ATE coverage entirely, leaving the clients on the hook for a massive costs bill following the inevitable strike out of the claim), I think the regulator needs to be far more pro-active about policing the business models operating in the profession and the resultant quality control.

Unfortunately, our regulator has shown itself to be a paper tiger, and a wet one at that.

ambulo ambulare ambulavi chaser 24 November 23 11:52

It is hilarious to see "leading UK dispute resolution" and "japanese knotweed" in the same sentence.

Anonymous 24 November 23 12:16

Low level personal injury claims are dead. No money to be made.

Heh 24 November 23 13:27

SRA asleep at the wheel once again, I wonder how they’ll spin this to make us pay another inflated one off fee? After all, the salaries of their grossly overpaid employees don’t pay for themselves!

Anonymous 24 November 23 14:30

Wow - I remember when it was a small firm, with a handful of fee earners, and good at what it did. To see it had grown to 220 staff in such a short time is bonkers. Another example of boom and bust.

SRA 24 November 23 19:33

Gonna buy the SRA alarm clock (with snooze button removed) for Xmas prezzie - they’ll keep passing the buck to our PC fees. :((

Mark R 24 November 23 20:54

This firm has been a basket case since the get go.

Mugging off lenders and taking claimants dow. With them there will be millions owed now by claimants on failed cavity wall claims (and others) and the bailiffs are literally at the door now for thousands of claimants SSB spun a lie too. I hope those in charge get some serious attention from action fraud and so some jail time. Won’t hold breathe SRA went in 6 months ago and all was well apparently. Hoofully this one leads to significant change. I bet the debt is way higher 48m was in 2022. 60-70m plus same again owed to claimants under no win no fee deals be my guess. Shocking situation allowed to happen due to ineffective regulation and people at the top with zero morals.

Dave Graham 25 November 23 10:20

When did this ludicrous fetish of using acronyms for law firm names start?
Almost as if partners hate their companies original founders and want them expunged from the record

Solvency alert 30 November 23 19:36

Maybe this is a really stupid question, but why doesn't the SRA monitor Companies House filed accounts for firms to see which are struggling and make them pay for the closer regulatory supervision they require because of the higher risk they pose?

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