Capita to enter UK legal services market with Optima takeover

Outsourcing company Capita is poised to move into the UK legal services market with the acquisition of Optima Legal, following a conditional agreement between the two parties.

The business process outsourcing (BPO) giant today (16 September) announced plans to acquire Optima, a provider of high-volume services for property, debt recovery and litigation work, as well as its subsidiary Cost Advocates, which provides legal costs drafting and negotiation services.

Optima operates from offices in Bradford, Newcastle and London, and counts several of UK’s largest financial services providers among its clients.

It will now become part of Capita Legal Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capita providing non-regulated legal services to lender, insurance, government, legal, and corporate markets, comprising a 600 person strong legal services team, with 150 legally qualified personnel and 50 solicitors.

The deal – which has been agreed for an undisclosed sum – is subject to approval by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the successful granting of an alternative business structure (ABS) licence.

In 2010, the two groups were ordered to sever ties by the SRA, after the regulator found FTSE 100 constituent Capita’s investments in Optima breached rules surrounding the financial stake non-lawyers could take in firms.

“Because of the way globalisation and the recession is driving the agenda towards efficient, effective and value for money services, clients require greater streamlined legal panels and more effective in-house legal teams,” said Capital Legal Services head James Cowan.

Optima’s senior litigation partner Phiip Robinson said: “Capita’s ownership will allow us to accelerate our growth plans and build a stronger business and service proposition.”

Capita’s move follows a previous test run of legal process outsourcing in Poland.

Last year, Capita signed a deal with Pinsent Masons to handle document review work from the company’s 550-seat operation in Krakow.

The project, which was carried out on a one-off basis, saw Capita put together a team of 85 in a three-week period to handle the work, while Pinsents sent three lawyers to Poland to oversee the operation.