A disabled lawyer who has taken scores of important disability discrimination cases has spoken of his regret after his law firm was forced to close because its credit facility was suddenly withdrawn.
There has been concern among disabled campaigners at Fry Law being forced into administration, and the potential impact on the availability of legal firms willing to take on disability discrimination cases.
Fry Law was seen as the leading firm in this area, and one of the few that would take on cases around access to goods and services.
Its founder, Chris Fry (pictured), took hundreds of cases on behalf of disabled people who alleged discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, including around access to healthcare, access to supermarkets, and the government’s failure to provide British Sign Language interpreters at televised COVID-19 briefings.
Fry Law has also acted for a number of disabled people claiming discrimination by bus and train companies, and Fry worked pro bono for disabled activists opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide on a high-profile judicial review case.
Fry Law also pioneered a link-up with a specialist insurance company that led to the launch of a new insurance policy that offered protection to disabled people – and others with “protected characteristics” – who took legal cases under the Equality Act.
It is not clear yet whether another law firm will take on this insurance policy.
There was also concern this week at the impact on disabled people who had ongoing cases with Fry Law, although Fry said that all of them should be taken on by other firms.
He told Disability News Service this week that his company had traded profitably ever since it was created in 2017, and he blamed a complex series of factors for being forced into administration.
This included a “funding facility” that allowed him to set up the company, but was withdrawn two years later, and the increased demand for Fry Law’s services at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
It was also unable to complete court cases – and so was not receiving revenue from those cases – because of widespread court closures at the start of the pandemic.
Several law firms have been involved in proposals to buy Fry Law over the last 15 months, and Fry said that the sudden cancellation of one deal had been “catastrophic”, leading to several Fry Law consultants leaving without giving notice.
He said this left the firm “critically under resourced and subject to floods of service level complaints as a result”, while the sudden withdrawal of funding by one of its creditors this summer meant administration was the only option, with Fry Law having debts of more than £100,000 that it was not able to pay.
Fry said that all the cases Fry Law had been dealing with would now be taken on by one of a consortium of firms, including Simpson Millar, SSB and Clear Law.
He said: “Fry Law closes as a business which has made a profit every year that it has traded, with an excellent track record, with cash in the bank and a caseload worth several million pounds.
“Whether or not Fry Law’s creditors will recover all of their money depends on whether the acquiring law firms do an effective job with the cases, and on the costs of the administration.
“I very much hope that all debts will be cleared over time. Those are factors which are outside of my control.”
He added: “For my part, I deeply regret losing control of Fry Law and feel bruised by the whole experience.”
He is now working on a freelance basis for the leading law firm Scott Moncrieff, and he said he was “looking forward to being able to focus on running cases and not a law firm”.
He said: “In essence I’ll be acting for fewer people but delivering a better service.”
And he said he had already been instructed to take on cases at Scott Moncrieff and would be leading legal cases on behalf of Deaf people, including working more closely with the Royal Association for Deaf people.
Fry promised that all compensation that was being held by Fry Law following successful legal actions was being “safely held”, and would be distributed by the administrators, Begbies Traynor*.
One possible positive from what has happened, he said, was that there were now “more firms to choose from” for those seeking to take disability discrimination cases.
*Any questions relating to Fry Law are being handled through the email address [email protected]
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…