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The Future of Hudgell Solicitors: A Q&A with Neil Hudgell and Amanda Stevens

Neil Hudgell and Amanda Stevens

Hudgell Solicitors recently announced a management restructure of the business, appointing highly-experienced litigator Amanda Stevens to the role of chief executive, who will be instrumental in shaping the future of the business in the wake of forthcoming industry changes, alongside managing director Neil Hudgell.

Here, Amanda and Neil discuss the reasons for the changes within the business, their expectations for the claims industry, and ambitions for further growth as a Top UK 150 firm.

Neil, you have announced a restructure of the business this week with Amanda Stevens now in the role of chief executive. Can you explain the thinking behind the changes, how they have come about and how Amanda was identified for this role?

NH: The only constant in our industry is change, and we need to be agile to that change and everything that is coming on the horizon. Amanda has a history of being at many of the top tables when strategy and direction for the profession is explored, not only within the firms she has worked at but also on highly influential legal steering groups, committees and associations. I wanted to bring that experience to the head of our business so we can stay fleet of foot at the front of change and continue to progress.

Amanda, how does it feel to be given this new role and what are your personal goals?

AS: From my first meeting with Neil I knew it would be an exciting adventure as I could see he was extremely pro-active and determined about the future success of his business. We’ve had a number of months to analyse what is happening within the industry, focus on our strengths and identify the opportunities to come up with a plan which also has the unanimous backing of the senior management team. I feel hugely excited and privileged to be asked to lead on that with Neil. My goal is ‘simple’, it is to help others deliver all we have set out to do on time and to enhance awareness externally of all that is special about what Hudgell Solicitors has to offer. We have a great story to tell.

You have personally won industry recognition for your influence on rehabilitation in the claims process, how important is developing this area of Hudgell Solicitors’ work?

AS: One of the things that attracted me to working with Neil and the team here was the priority they have always placed on early and influential rehabilitation for people suffering serious injury. It is already a strength of this firm but we are developing it further. A lot of lawyers talk about doing this, but when you scratch beneath the surface it amounts to little more than lip service. It is absolutely key going forwards that we continue to offer rehab and look for ways to enhance that service. We’ve recently produced a detailed Rehabilitation Handbook for injured people and their families as an extra resource, identifying where they can get vital support immediately after suffering an injury, when leaving hospital, and in the long term. It is part of our commitment to always see the person and not just the claim.

You’ve already mentioned big change ahead in the claims industry and that you are acting now to be fully prepared and grow. What are the key challenges for Hudgell Solicitors, and others in the claims industry, at such times of change?

AS: For me it’s about maintaining our core professional values of excellent service and being a trusted adviser to our clients whilst achieving affordability and accessibility in an increasingly crowded and constrained market.

NH: Yes, for me THE challenge is to do more for less without compromising quality.

With that in mind, what changes do you envisage across the claims industry between now and the reforms due in October 2018?

AS: The market is already showing signs of turbulence with a number of practices seeking to exit and lawyers seeking to move or skill up in different areas, so there is likely to be further consolidation of the market and, as with any time of change, there could be one or two new entrants on a different business model which could cause a further shake up. I hope any new entrants will bring a stimulus to the market, as they advertise the relevance of professional assistance with claims, rather than disrepute, after a short while, as has happened in earlier periods of reform of our sector.

NH: I’m not convinced we will have new entrants in any significant numbers. There will be leavers. Firms will jump into areas of work they don’t currently do in the same way they jumped into ID work, clinical negligence work, and, more recently holiday sickness. Recent press statements already suggests the writing is on the wall for that latter category.

You said in your statement regarding the restructure of the business that the changes and new strategy are about being ‘a beneficiary and not a victim’ of new regulations. What does this mean?

AS: Our lawyers have chosen to specialise in injury work, rather than more corporate types of law, and have done so because they care passionately about helping individuals and their families to get life back on track after completely unexpected and harmful events which could afflict any of us out of the blue. Caring about those people is what makes our staff want to get out of bed in the morning. If terms of the new regulations and pricing restrictions making the legal process more of an inhuman conveyor belt, we will be a “victim” of the reforms, because that is not a business model we would choose to adopt. Similarly, having to pull out of such work because changes have rendered it wholly uneconomic would clearly be a massive blow, and one we are seeking to protect ourselves from through our new strategy. Our goal is to use the experience we have gained from previous reforms, and many years of extremely high customer satisfaction ratings, to roll out a product line which is even more attractive to injured people and their families than what has gone before.

Neil, in the wake of the Jackson Reforms of 2013, many firms sold PI caseloads and Hudgell Solicitors has since completed 32 deals for cases and departments. Are you in a position to buy again or is it a case of being more cautious now given increases in the small claims limit and restrictions on the entitlement to claim for certain injury types?

NH: We sit on a fund to use if the right opportunity comes along. We have three active lines of discussion ongoing at the moment which I’m hoping fall over the line before the summer is out. Unless the price is right though we won’t do business, we will continue to develop our own referral arrangements and direct marketing initiatives.

Amanda, part of your responsibilities in your new role is developing and mentoring the talent currently within the business, just how important is?

AS: We set high standards of client care through our customer charter and as we move forward we are setting the highest standards for staff satisfaction and development within. A few people have helped me along the way, but traditionally law firms have had a mentality of ‘each to his own’, based on competition amongst individuals rather than collaboration. By finding out precisely how people would like to develop their career and then offering constructive feedback and support to help achieve transparent and realistic personal goals, our staff can grow and our business can be enhanced. I feel a happy and motivated workforce is key to all we hope to achieve together as a business.

Neil, how has Hudgell Solicitors changed over the past few years as a firm, and how has that influenced the new vision?

NH: We have a more defined process, greater efficiency across the business, and importantly we are now people led from within, adopting the ideas and energy of the people we employ and using them to provide a better service to our clients.

Where would you say Hudgell Solicitors is placed within the claims sector now, and where would you like the business to be in 18 months’ time given these changes?

NH: We are now firmly established as a UK Top 150 firm, growing various niche areas of the business whilst maintaining our core work areas. We are concentrating on cementing that position in a continually evolving market facing continued price squeezes and regulatory restrictions. In 18 months’ time we will hopefully be looking back at the changes we are making now and reflecting upon how we were right to take a step back, analyse all that we do, and change.

No matter what your injury or loss, Hudgell Solicitors will always be here for our clients. To benefit from our outstanding approach to client care and no win no fee promise, click here to make a claim online now or visit our homepage for further help and support.

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13/06/2017 No Comments

Amanda Stevens becomes chief executive of Hudgell Solicitors

claims mag

Hudgell Solicitors has appointed Amanda Stevens as its new chief executive.

Stevens, who has a been a manager in the NHS as well as a partner at Charles Russell and Irwin Mitchell, joined the firm in January last year.

Neil Hudgell, the founder of the firm, has restructured the firm’s management team after running Hudgell Solicitors throughout its 20-year history. Stevens will now head up various new projects as part of the firm’s new strategy, including developing its management information tools, and undertaking a full analysis of how it treats clients.

Stevens will also oversee costs, “mentoring and talent identification” within the business, and lead the development of the firm’s rehabilitation services – an area in which she has played a key national role by twice overseeing revisions and updates to the Rehabilitation Code in 2007 and most recently 2015.

The move follows a three-month sabbatical that Hudgell took from the business in 2016.

There has been a lot of talk about uncertainty in the claims sector, but what Hudgell Solicitors have been traditionally very strong at, and will be so in the future, is identifying times of change as opportunities.

When you come to a crossroads, you need to have planned your path and know where you are heading, and why. That is what this is all about. It is about ensuring our firm is a beneficiary of the changes, not a victim.

Hudgell said that he will be working with individual members of the firm’s senior management team in ensuring the smooth running of their departments.

We are lucky to have an excellent staff, with forward-thinking ideas to bring to the table. That enables us to stay agile and adapt our business model to changing needs.

The next stage of development for us is in terms of efficiency savings and automation, enabling us to service more clients and continue delivering a first class service in our three locations, so that we can maintain our national position in the areas of work in which we specialise.

I for one am very excited by the innovations and changes we are implementing and I know our team will do as they have always done before and work to further strengthen the business and help it maintain and grow our market position in times of change.

Hudgell Solicitors has launched an aggressive acquisition strategy in the personal injury and clinical negligence sectors in recent years through the launch of www.webuyanyfiles.co.uk.

It has seen the firm take on caseloads from lawyers, insolvency practitioners, accountants and other professionals, with more than 6,000 files acquired at a cost of around £5 million.

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12/06/2017 No Comments

Hudgell Solicitors are delighted to support the launch of potentially life-saving ‘Monitoring For Mums’ Baby Lifeline charity campaign

woman kissing baby hands

Hudgell Solicitors are delighted to be supporting the launch of a new campaign by national mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline for which full details are to be announced at its 35th anniversary gala dinner tonight – and could potentially save hundreds of lives.

Details of the ‘Monitoring for Mums’ Appeal will be announced by charity founder Judy Ledger in front of an audience of senior consultants and professional obstetricians, anaesthetists, neonatologists and midwives representing the NHS across the UK.

babylifelineBaby Lifeline is a unique national charity supporting the care of pregnant women and new-born babies across the UK and worldwide. It raises funds to purchase much-needed maternity equipment and is one of the leading providers of training to the medical and legal professions, attracting the support of leading health figures who sit on its board. It also boasts high-profile celebrities as patrons, including Sir Ben Kingsley and Dame Judi Dench.

The charity was founded by Mrs Ledger, who qualified as a state registered nurse in 1978 and suffered the heartache of losing her baby during pregnancy not just once, but on three occasions.

She wanted to do something positive to help cope with her grief, and to support the medical professionals who looked after her.

Since launching the charity, she has campaigned to ensure the best care for pregnant women and their babies by helping to provide equipment, specialist training and to support national research projects with the potential to improve the quality of maternity care.

She has received various awards for her work with the charity, including a Pride of Britain Award for fundraising in 2010, and hopes this new campaign will make a hugely positive impact on further improving maternity care across the UK.

The launch of the appeal – which looks to improve both equipment and training on UK hospital wards – comes as the Government has targeted halving the number of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries in babies by 2030, with a 20 per cent reduction by 2020.

A report last year concluded that the lives of hundreds of unborn babies could be saved if their mothers were given better care during pregnancy.

More recent research by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) claimed between 500 and 800 babies die or acquire severe brain injuries due to something going wrong during labour each year in the UK – more than one a day.

As part of the Monitoring for Mums campaign, people across the UK will be able to raise funds or donate directly to their local hospital maternity units via a new dedicated website, helping them to purchase much needed equipment which hospital Trusts have themselves identified as being required to improve their standards of maternity care.

Each hospital has its own dedicated fund-raising target and details of the equipment they need on the campaign website. Equipment funding requests have so far totalled more than £4.5m.

The campaign will also look to address in-house training issues and support for UK maternity issues, following research conducted with 125 NHS Trusts.

Amanda Stevens, Group Head of Legal Practice at Hudgell Solicitors, worked as the manager of a maternity unit at a London hospital before entering the legal profession, and says the campaign can tackle the key areas needed to improve standards on maternity units across the UK. 

“The launch of this new campaign is very exciting and one we have been delighted to support at Hudgell Solicitors, as not only can it bring the issue into the national spotlight, but also hopefully lead to better maternity equipment and training across the UK,” she said.

“In my legal profession I personally have seen far too many cases in which lives have been lost or severely impaired because of poor monitoring equipment in hospitals or maternity staff not being fully trained in using the equipment effectively.

“There are so many excellent midwives and clinicians who go above and beyond their duty and are completely committed to providing the best care, but they are working in fear of something going wrong because they don’t have the equipment they need or colleagues lack the relevant, updated training.

“It is simply unfair to put this pressure on those working in maternity units, and to place mothers and babies at risk during pregnancy and birth. We always campaign for improvements in standards and training, but often it is pushed down the priority list by managers who have budgets at the forefront of their minds.”

The newly launched Monitoring For Mums charity website has been produced with the support of Hudgell Solicitors.

Mrs Ledger added: “The support of Hudgell Solicitors for our Monitoring for Mums microsite has been invaluable to the appeal. Without this, we would not have been able to set up individual campaigns for each hospital, allowing people to support their maternity unit directly.

“The site will make a dramatic difference to the amount raised towards safer births for mums and babies across the UK, and we could never have done it without them.”

Baby LifeLine’s ‘Monitoring For Mums’ appeal will be officially launched at the charity’s 35th anniversary Gala Dinner at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on Thursday, September 8.

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08/09/2016 No Comments

Rehabilitation – the most challenging but rewarding aspect of injury litigation?

Modern claims mag

Why personal injury practitioners should engage with the revised Rehabilitation Code, and why rehabilitation in clinical negligence litigation should take centre stage, By Amanda Stevens, Group Head of Legal Practice.

If someone you knew suffered an accident, I wonder what advice you would give? Would it be to find the best lawyer and make sure they got the maximum compensation? Whilst important considerations, my advice would be find a lawyer who really understands rehabilitation and how to access it early, as well as being a robust litigator. After all, the biggest preoccupation of my clients down the years has been how to get their life back on track as quickly as possible – money alone can’t do that.

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01/09/2016 No Comments

Hudgell Solicitors will become a ‘truly national boutique injury law firm’, says new head of legal practice Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens

Hudgell Solicitors has the expertise, passion and dedication to significantly expand its service to victims of medical negligence and personal injury in London and nationwide, according to the firm’s new senior figure.

New Head of Legal Practice Amanda Stevens will have a nationwide role, supporting existing offices in London, the North, and South West, but also with a strong focus on developing the firm’s presence in London, further enhancing its reputation as a national leader in handling high-value claims and representing those who have suffered serious, often life-changing injuries.

Ms Stevens, a former partner at Irwin Mitchell who has an established a reputation as an eminent practitioner in both clinical negligence and personal injury, joined Hudgell Solicitors last month.

Her appointment comes as the firm celebrates new industry short-listings for successful outcomes from its clear strategy as a rehabilitation-led injury practice, with an award winning customer charter that has seen client satisfaction levels soar, at the same time as acting for record numbers of new clients each year.

Focus ‘100 per cent’ on the needs of injured people

“I have been following the progress of Hudgell Solicitors with great interest for the past couple of years as I have admired Neil Hudgell’s innovative approach towards embracing law reform whilst enhancing client care,” said Mrs Stevens.

“I was therefore both surprised and delighted when Neil invited me to become Group Head of Legal Practice. This new role gives me the opportunity to play an important role in ensuring the business fulfils Neil’s vision, and that of his senior management team.

“Being part of a boutique injury practice enables management to focus 100 per cent on the needs of injured people and to develop products totally suited to their situation, without being distracted by the demands of other parts of a legal  business all trying to operate under  the same umbrella organisation.”

Mrs Stevens, a former President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), and one of their Rehab Champions, has spent much of the past year chairing a cross-industry working group tasked with overhauling the national Rehabilitation Code.

This voluntary protocol is adopted by the vast majority of lawyers and insurance claims handlers who want to ensure that rehabilitation is a primary consideration when progressing any litigation claim. The 2015 edition has just been published, to much industry acclaim. Mrs Stevens was also a founding Director of the UK Rehabilitation Council.

Mrs Stevens says the focus on providing industry-leading access to rehabilitation services for clients will form a major part of her new role.

It is something that she says is “embedded in her DNA”, having formerly worked as a hospital manager before commencing her legal career.

Importance of rehabilitation ‘should never be overlooked’

“In recent years Hudgell Solicitors has developed a reputation for placing rehabilitation at the heart of its work, and it will be a major focus for me to further strengthen that area of expertise and client service,” she said.

“I am already working to identify yet more opportunities to enhance the rehabilitation services we are able to access for clients, thereby further improving the aftercare support we can provide for clients, which is so important and should never be overlooked,”

Having recently purchased new premises in Fleet Street, Hudgell Solicitors is now perfectly placed to strengthen its status in central London, and to support the Greater London conurbation in which, given the size of population, Mrs Stevens says offers far too little customer choice for those seeking specialist expertise for handling complex, higher value claims.

“Many legal firms in London have pulled out of the personal injury and medical negligence sector as the law reforms made it more difficult.  That has resulted in loss of choice and a huge market for a customer focused firm to build around,” she added.

With a legal career spanning over 25 years behind her, in which she has specialised in claims involving complex injury and clinical negligence cases, Mrs Stevens will also oversee the mentoring and development of the firm’s rising stars for future years.

“The aim is to attract, retain, and develop the very best legal team in all areas of the country, and training people across the business in handling very complicated, high-value claims is something I am very enthusiastic about,” she said.

At the same time as taking up her appointment with Hudgell Solicitors, Mrs Stevens has been selected for the High Court bench as a Deputy Master in the Queen’s Bench Division.

She was the only solicitor to be appointed in the recent selection exercise and is in fact one of only two solicitors on the current Master’s corridor, such roles more usually being held by barristers.

She added: “I feel honoured to have been chosen for this role and am excited about all that lies ahead both in my judicial capacity and as Group Head of Legal Practice at Hudgell Solicitors, where I will strive to ensure the client journey continues to be the best it possibly can be.”

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18/03/2016 No Comments

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