Chris Byron, Managing Director, Aspire Law

We are a social enterprise law firm. Our priority is to put the needs of the client first. Our priority is not to maximize partner profits.

Aspire Law is a joint venture between Aspire, a spinal cord injury charity, and Moore Blatch, a personal injury law firm. Aspire Law specializes in persons with spinal cord injuries. Aspire Law does not deduct fees from a client’s compensation award, and 50% of the profits earned by Aspire Law are paid to the charity Aspire, which it uses to provide support, funding and housing for people with spinal cord injury.

Aspire Law was created in 2014 as a joint venture between Aspire, a national spinal cord injury charity, and Moore Blatch, a mid-tier personal injury law firm. It was formed to provide legal advice to persons with a spinal cord injury, with the purpose of forming an independent and reliable income stream for Aspire, the spinal cord injury charity. Aspire Law’s profits are shared equally between Moore Blatch and Aspire, and Aspire uses its share to help persons with spinal cord injury who do not have a claim for compensation (most people who have spinal cord injury do not have a claim for compensation).

The types of help that Aspire the charity provides to people are things like adapted housing, peer-to-peer support and counselling, access to technology and internet.

Aspire Law obtained an ABS license from the SRA in November, 2014. Filling out the forms was long and detailed. Notably, we had to provide a lot of information about the two organizational owners of Aspire Law, as well as personal information about the managers of the two organizational owners. But once we had completed and filed the forms with the SRA, the application process went very quickly.

Moore Blatch’s motivation to do this is to build their track record and market share in the personal injury market. In addition, the firm has a tradition of working with charitable causes in the UK.

It is difficult for spinal cord charities to raise funds, as compared, for example, to charities for children or for cancer research. It became particularly difficult after the recession of 2008-2009 when many corporate donors cancelled their funding. Aspire Law is a good opportunity for Aspire the charity to build a long-term, robust income stream.

In a typical spinal cord injury claim, the claimant’s fees are paid by the insurer of the entity that recorded the accident. Aspire Law is paid with those fees. These fees can be significant because these are long complex cases that can take two to three years to conclude.

Unlike our competitors, we do not take a percentage of the compensation awarded to the claimant as an additional success fee. That is important as the claimant needs that money (25% or more of the damages award) to pay for their loss of income and their care regime.

What also resonates with our clients is the fact that half of the income goes back to a charity to help others with spinal cord injury.

We are a social enterprise law firm. Our priority is to put the needs of the client first. Our priority is not to maximize partner profits.

When we reach our peak, we are expecting to handle 40 to 50 cases per year.

Aspire Law has just two shareholders — Aspire the charity and Moore Blatch. There are no other shareholders. The managing board consists of three partners from Moore Blatch and three persons from Aspire. The three persons from Aspire are not lawyers.

I am not a lawyer either. I am an operations manager. I have run a range of businesses in retail, in consulting and in outsourcing.

When the rules were changed in the UK to permit ABSs, people thought that it would lead to the dumbing down of law. But I don’t think that that has happened. What they have done is changed the way people access law.

Aspire Law provides to clients a better choice when they seek representation for spinal cord injury. They can go with firms like Irwin Mitchell or Slater and Gordon, or they can go with Aspire Law. If they go with Aspire Law, they know that a large contribution will be made to a charity the supports others who are in their circumstances. They also know that they can retain all of their compensation, rather than just 75% or less.

Aspire the charity had a huge amount of input into designing the Aspire Law, to be sure it meets the needs of the Aspire’s service users. When we created Aspire Law, we conducted two focus groups with people who had spinal cord injury claims and had worked with other law firms. We asked them if they could create a law firm for the specific purpose of serving persons with spinal cord injury, what would that firm look like: what kind of service would it need to provide, what kind of people would need to run it? The result is Aspire Law. Aspire Law blends the best of both worlds — the legal expertise of Moore Blatch, with the charitable expertise of Aspire.

As a result of this combination, Moore Blatch’s lawyers understand that serving these customers is not just about taking a claim and making it successful in court. They also understand the other issues that persons with spinal cord injury face, such as skin conditions and the bowel dysfunction — this understanding allows them to take a more empathetic and holistic approach. No one else can match that.

ABSs bring choice and transparency to the legal market. There are a massive amount of people who don’t qualify for legal aid but cannot afford most legal services. ABSs offer huge potential to this market — to persons who can pay something, just not what law firms demand today.

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