A SOLICITOR who started out as a one-man operation in an office above a gas showroom has sold his massive York-based legal empire for what is believed to be an eight-figure sum.

Bruce Corrie, 42, chairman and sole owner of Corries Solicitors, which generated £17.5 million worth of solicitors' fees in the year to last April, has sealed the deal with newly-formed Minster Law, which is backed by Peterborough-based Budget Insurance. It could mean up to 100 new jobs for the city.

Mr Corrie started his York enterprise as a lone operation above a Calor Gas showroom off Huntington Road in 1996. He had £700, which he used to buy a second-hand computer. Now the legal insurance cover venture employs 250 people and is based at prestige modern offices in Hospital Fields Road, off Fulford Road. The 37,000 sq ft Alexander House, named after Mr Corrie's eight-year-old son, will be taken over by Minster Law. As many as 100 extra people will be employed to offer legal services for the Budget car insurance brand - which is being sold by the likes of the Post Office, Marks & Spencer and Bradford & Bingley. The firm will still be called Corries Solicitors.

As part of the agreement, Mr Corrie will take 50 of his existing 250 York staff to his new venture, BAC solicitors, which from the end of this month will operate from Rowntree Wharf.

He will also retain his Glasgow Corries, which employs 50 people.

BAC will concentrate on industrial injury claims, particularly for asbestosis, criminal injury compensation, plus conveyancing, wills, and probate and employment issues.

Mr Corrie said: "I had taken the company as far as I could and I will be very sad to leave it.

"The option that I should continue with an involvement in the company was suggested, but I rejected it. I could not have carried out my new plans at the same time.

"Corries always relied on maintenance of a series of contracts, but now the work will be guaranteed and will mean job security and extra jobs - I understand between 50 and 100.

"It is good news for York. Budget looked at other solicitors, but I already had a three-year relationship with them, and they liked both what I had to offer and the skills base that York was able to provide."

A graduate of York College of Law, Mr Corrie was articled for three years and worked for a number of firms, specialising in traffic accident casework. "I learned the business from the ground up," he said. A year after starting up in Huntington, the business moved to Walmgate, where it thrived.

He said: "At that time we got very lucky by winning a contract to handle legal claims with Admiral Insurance, which was emulating the direct motoring insurance success of Direct Line. They liked the away we did our business.

"We had lots of IT and modern practice, and they required a volume operation."

The rise and rise of Bruce Corrie

BRUCE Corrie, 42, lives in Huntington, York, with his wife, Sally, and son Alexander, eight, after whom his offices, Alexander House in Hospital Fields Road, were named. He has lived in York for 15 years.

Born in Carlisle, and brought up in Gullane, near Edinburgh, his parents were both teachers.

He gained a degree in economics at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and spent three years "roaming" in the US. He was in the first intake of students at the York College of Law. He was articled for three years and specialised in traffic accident work.

His York venture began as a lone operation above the Calor Gas showroom in Gladstone Street in 1996. He had just £700, which he needed to buy a second-hand computer. A year later, after taking on help, he moved into an office in Melrose Yard, off Walmgate, York. Corries solicitors quickly won other legal insurance contracts with Diamond Insurance, Elephant Insurance and Bell Direct.

By 1998 he had taken on extra office space on the top floor of Rowntree Wharf, and the following year opened a Glasgow office with five people.

In 2000 yet more offices were acquired, this time at Franklin's Yard next to the Blue Bicycle restaurant, in Walmgate, York, and two years later Mr Corrie devoted an office in Merchant Chambers to litigation arising from industrial diseases.

But in April last year he consolidated the 250 employees at all five offices under one roof, leasing the new Hospital Fields Road building from York-based Shepherd Construction.

Updated: 08:40 Thursday, September 15, 2005