The annual business review of odonnells solicitors Ltd shows that we have continued to manage the uncertainties in the legal sector very well. A significant part of what we do involves championing the vulnerable and incapacitated. Defending the dignity and liberty of those who are unable to stand up for themselves is at the core of what we do but it is poorly paid as it is not a priority for taxpayers. Balancing the quality of our service against the need to stay in business is something we work on constantly.

The Law Management Survey is the standard benchmark for the legal sector and we came out very well. We undertook a large amount of pro bono work due to the cap on matters the Legal Aid Agency allowed to open but still managed to raise net profit by 10%. By size of practice we beat the industry average by 6% and by 13% for all firms in the North West. These excellent results reflect the significant investment in staff training and computerisation we made over the last 3 years.

Our attention to client care is a key element of our business. An exemplary claims record and excellent client survey results has enabled us to reduce our professional insurance costs to under half the sector average. A good reputation drives the introductions we receive from many sources including the Official Solicitor, social services departments, advocacy groups, carers and families throughout the country.

The final indicator is the capital locked up in outstanding fees and uncharged work. High figures inhibit investment but we are firmly in control with a lock up only 60% of the average. The legal sector is highly competitive. Private equity, insurance companies and even car repair and hire companies are setting up law firms. To remain independent and continue the vital work we do for the dispossessed and marginalised, running an effective business is essential. Demand for our specialist skills in the Court of Protection will continue to drive growth over the next 12 months. Although the Legal Aid Agency have recognised our value to the community by increasing the volume of work we are allowed to do, the challenge of making it pay remains. We have the business model to achieve this.

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