Tom Watkinson joins award-winning dispute resolution business

Well-known Midlands-based lawyer and businessman Tom Watkinson has joined Escalate, the ground-breaking commercial dispute resolution process for SMEs.

Tom will help grow Escalate’s presence in the Midlands market, drawing on his 25 years of experience of working at a number of top professional services firms across the region. Escalate helps businesses to remove all financial risk and achieve a prompt settlement in pursuing a wide range of commercial disputes. It was named ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the prestigious British Accountancy Awards last autumn.

Tom joins Escalate from Knights Solicitors in Derby, where he was a Partner responsible for litigation, insolvency and business development. Prior to that, Tom was Managing Director at Leicester-based Raynsway Commercial Property Investment and a partner at law firm Roythornes in Nottingham.

Tom’s appointment comes at a time when Escalate is preparing to relocate its head office to the East Midlands. The company is currently exploring options for premises in Leicestershire and is also planning to recruit additional staff.

Escalate follows a two-stage dispute resolution process. Firstly, it focuses focusing on a negotiated settlement, using licenced corporate recovery specialists with a track record of rapidly recovering assets to negotiate on behalf of the claimant, and encouraging the defendant to settle quickly in the client’s favour without the need for litigation. The process allows a maximum of three months for this negotiation. If the defendant is unwilling to settle in this timeframe, solicitors acting on a fully conditional basis will begin preparing for litigation. As part of the service, all fees and associated costs are funded and paid on the client’s behalf all the way up to a High Court resolution.

This contrasts with the traditional commercial dispute resolution process that typically takes 18 months; is often billed by the hour; can require the payment of disbursements, such as court fees or the costs of an expert, up front; and leaves the claimant at risk from large legal bills from its advisers and exposure to the defendant’s costs in the event of an unsuccessful outcome. Tom Watkinson said: “This is an exciting time to be joining Escalate.

The business is growing rapidly, winning prestigious awards and is committed to investing in the Midlands. “Escalate has the potential to be a game-changer because it enables businesses to resolve their disputes in a way that helps rather than hinders their cash flow.

“Escalate is already helping to unlock over £12 million in cash for businesses involved in a variety of disputes. There are thousands of SMEs in our region that could also benefit from using Escalate, and I’m looking forward to working with them to help them boost their cashflow too.” Chris Clay, Managing Director and one of the architects of the Escalate process, said: "Escalate is growing rapidly so it makes sense to bring on board a big hitter like Tom to help us realise our expansion plans.

“A number of national accountancy practices, lenders and membership bodies have already signed up as Escalate partner firms. Tom will help us to develop partnerships with other leading professional advisers in the Midlands.

“We’re seeing considerable demand from businesses in the Midlands for the Escalate process, which is not surprising given that the traditional dispute resolution model is broken and heavily stacked against claimants.

“Recent research from the Federation of Small Businesses suggests there were at least 3.4 million commercial disputes involving SMEs between 2010 and 2015. This represents a significant cost and cash flow constraint to businesses, and can sometimes be the reason why they fail. “Pursuing a commercial dispute has tended to be a costly, lengthy and risky undertaking. Escalate has changed that by providing a smarter way for businesses to resolve commercial disputes.” For more information on Escalate, visit their website.