Voted by The Judging Panel
Sponsored by M Consulting


Barlow Lyde & Gilbert

Graham Dickinson, head of general insurance at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG), said: "I am delighted to accept this award of behalf of the entire team at BLG. We are proud of the service we provide our clients and being recognised by those in your industry sector is extremely gratifying."

BLG has had a very busy year having worked on many high profile cases throughout the last 12 months. BLG has over 65 partners and 130 other qualified staff specialising in advising the insurance industry on every aspect of reinsurance and insurance law, making it one of the largest specialist practices in the world. While dispute resolution remains core to the insurance practice, the firm is increasingly meeting a growing demand from clients for product development, policy drafting and corporate and regulatory advice.

Graham said: "Our growing corporate and finance skills make the firm uniquely placed to undertake corporate and finance transactions for the insurance sector and to enable them to remain at the forefront of alternative risk transfer and innovative bancassurance products."

Highly commended

Ricksons Solicitors

Ricksons was established in 1974 to focus solely on defendant insurance litigation from its Preston headquarters. It now also offers a full range of commercial services. The 28-partner firm employs over 170 staff across four locations - Preston, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

Ricksons acts in all areas of personal injury work, including employers' and public liability, and motor claims but it also has a specialist industrial disease claims unit. In 2003, the firm strengthened the insurance division with the arrival of seven lawyers from Whittles. The team, headed up by Glyn Jones, who is advising insurers in relation to the Selby rail crash, joined the firm bringing clients including Direct Line Group, Fortis and Groupama.

In 2003, Ricksons won a legal precedent regarding CFAs. A judgement was reached in the Berryl McCreery v Massey Plastic Fabrications Ltd disease case where McCreery had refused to disclose the contents of the CFA. The key finding was that the CFA is not privileged and unlikely to contain sensitive information the defendants could not see. It was an important development as claims for costs are now much greater than they used to be because of success fees and 'after the event' insurance premiums. The judgement encouraged early disclosure of the CFAs, meaning insurers will be able to look at all of the details of the claim for costs at an early stage.

In September, the firm merged with Manchester-based commercial practice Elliotts. An important starter to Ricksons' plan to be in the top 100 law firms in England by 2008. The merger has put the firm ahead of projected growth for year one - a milestone, which Ricksons is looking to replicate in the insurance division.

Hugh James Solicitors

Firstly, we at Hugh James congratulate the winners of this most prestigious award.

We recognise that the Insurance Times is one of the most widely read journals in the Insurance industry and so competition for the Insurance Law Firm will have been fierce. To be highly commended among such competition is a huge accolade for us.

With over 30 years experience of acting for insurers it was clear to us that major changes to our working practices were essential for us to remain competitive. Consequently we carried out an analysis of the Insurance market and the role of liability lawyers.

We calculated that an insurer with a claims portfolio of 5,000 litigated claims with an average settlement of £3,500 the annual legal spend would exceed £20,000,000. In other words, lawyers' costs were a huge problem for the industry. We had to address this and find a solution. Our research also indicated that Insurers have a further problem, namely accurate management information.

By re-engineering the pre and post litigation process we have driven down the legal cost without compromising on quality. By embracing modern technology we now provide access to tailored and accurate management data at the touch of a button, all available remotely via secure web-site links.

In this way we (as lawyers) are no longer the problem: we are the solution.

We are delighted to be highly commended and we thank the Insurance Times for this great accolade.