Hudgell Solicitors has marked its 20th year by outlining its intentions to cement its position as one of the UK’s leading law firms.
Neil Hudgell established his own law practice on September 1, 1997, having been offered the opportunity to take over three offices at the firm where he was employed, after it ran into difficult times.
It was an opportunity he took on instinct – an approach which has served him well over the past two decades – growing the business from a local company operating in all areas of law to establishing a reputation as leading personal injury and medical negligence specialists, representing thousands of clients across the UK.
In the past 18 months it has moved into three new freehold offices in Hull, Leeds and London, seen rapid growth in handling civil liberties and police misconduct cases, and forged its way to becoming one of the top 150 law firms in the UK with a turnover of more than £12m.
The recipe for success, according to Mr Hudgell, is never being afraid to take an opportunity, and never being afraid of change.
“You can never stand still in this line of business, you have to be flexible and able to adapt to changes in the industry and respond to new opportunities,” said Mr Hudgell, reflecting on the past two decades.
“It is why we took a step back this year as a business and looked at how we were working, where we needed to be heading, and devised a new strategy. We weren’t content to just keep going as we were, despite our success.”
Customer service remains priority after two decades in business
Mr Hudgell insists the main priority remains the same, no matter how the firm changes over the years.
“From day one I was of the mind-set that my firm was going to be client led,” he said.
“In my opinion, lawyers and solicitors all too often are not focussed on the customer service of their work and simply the legal side of things, but at the end of the day, that is what we provide.
“You have to ask, what extra you are giving to your clients? At the end of the day, clients can easily find someone else who knows the law. What they want is someone to care about their case and situation, care about looking after their needs and give them the best possible service.
“In that sense, nothing has changed about the firm. It was the priority at the start and remains so now. You always have to remember that is what you are there to do as a business grows and changes over the years.
“Equally, lawyers have a key role to play in the development of the business, forging the right relationships with outside organisations and promoting the work and expertise of the firm, they can’t just do the day job. Everybody has to add value in all areas.”
It is an approach which has brought continued industry recognition, with national awards for a number of the firm’s leading solicitors.
Most recently it secured a second successive shortlisting at the national Rehabilitation First Awards this month, recognising how Hudgell Solicitors puts the recovery of those seriously injured at the forefront of its work.
It follows a case in which a man has been supported through brain injury recovery following a road accident, with his progress so successful he is now studying at university.
The firm has also continually campaigned for improved standards of health care, particularly in care homes, where it has called for greater compassion and dignity for the elderly, whilst many medical negligence cases have resulted in hospital trusts amending policies and procedures to improve care and reduce risk, including a national review of use of hand gels in hospitals following the death of an elderly patient who drank a bottle.
Firm soon became established as specialists in personal injury claims
In the early days the firm offered all areas of law expertise, from conveyancing and probate to wills and company law. After just three years though, Mr Hudgell says he realised moving into the niche area of personal injury was the route to success.
“Personal injury was an area of work which fitted hand in glove with the aim of providing people with a personal service. People who have suffered an injury need that support and to feel that somebody is on their side,” he said.
“I know it’s an area which some are uncomfortable with, and some people will never be comfortable making a claim, but I firmly believe that if someone is injured through no fault of their own, impacting on their quality of life and ability to work and enjoy leisure time, they deserve to be compensated and supported.
“We see so many cases of lives forever changed by serious injury. Why should they be further punished by not being compensated? The damages we secure help people rebuild their lives and secure much-needed rehabilitation support. They haven’t won the jackpot, they’ve simply been given the chance to make the best of a difficult situation.
“We’ve had so many people thank us for turning their lives around, from feeling they had little to look forward to. That is so rewarding and these people are grateful to our lawyers for the rest of their lives.
“Of course, like any industry, there are some firms which give the work we do a bad name, but not us. We only support people with genuine injuries and helping them towards a better life is a rewarding line of work.”
Hudgell Solicitors continues to grow new areas of work as it enters third decade
Key to the continuing development of Hudgell Solicitors has been its track-record of acquiring caseloads from other firms exiting the market as squeezes on fees, increases in the small claims limit and restrictions on the entitlement to claim for certain injury types all impact on the industry.
The firm is now approaching its 50th completed deal since establishing its www.webuyanyfiles offer in 2011. Just last month it acquired of all cases from personal injury specialists Hinchliffes Solicitors, whilst it purchased London-based Josie Robinson Solicitors in June, which works in the area of sports injuries.
In another example of the firm never standing still, its growth in handling civil liberties, human rights and police misconduct work over the past 18 months sees it now handle a significant number of active cases at any one time.
This department continues to grow at pace, recruiting leading solicitors Andrew Arthur, who was a partner and the head of London-based Fisher Meredith’s Police Law and Civil Liberties department, and Cyrilia Davies Knight, who has experience of working on behalf of families who lost loved ones in the Hillsborough disaster.
“We’ve seen rapid growth in that area of work and we have secured a number of cases of national significance, so that has been a fine example of us not being prepared to standstill and spotting a business opportunity,” added Mr Hudgell.
“We have made it a priority to identify and recruit solicitors who are recognised as being amongst the leaders in their field, and with experience of handling cases of significance.
“The new additions we have made to our team this year has further enhanced our position as being a go-to firm for those who feel their civil liberties and human rights may have been breached.”
Mr Hudgell says he has always tried to look beyond the present and to the future in a bid to stay ahead of the game, something required now more than ever.
It is why a management restructure was announced earlier this year, appointing highly-experienced lawyer Amanda Stevens as chief executive, in a role which will see her shape the growth of the business alongside Mr Hudgell and the senior management team.
“I started the firm out working in all areas of law, but after three or four years I realised that the area of growth was personal injury. Medical Negligence developed about seven years ago and in recent times those areas have been split 50/50 in terms of workloads,” he said.
“There have been many challenges for us over the years, but I’d say the industry is more challenging now than in any of the 20 years previous with all the changes and restrictions coming in.
“The challenge now perhaps is to maintain our position and strength in the years to come. That is why it has been so important to look at new ways of working, introduce greater efficiencies into the legal process whilst improving customer service and developing new areas of work.
“Stand still and you’ll go backwards. That is my strongest message. We must keep moving forward.”