Page 1

CLAIMSNEWS

CLAIMSNEWS A monthly review of claims news from around the UK INTERVIEW

MARKETING

AROUND THE UK

Our next issue will feature an interview with a claims lawyer

Marketing your law firm: Evolution or Revolution?

APPOINTMENTS

Claims news from around the UK

The first non-lawyer Lord Chancellor

Send us details of new appointments for our next issue

Just days following his appointment, the Ministry of Justice announced that the government would reconsider its plans to scrap compensation payments to victims of minor criminal assaults. The news has been welcomed by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers as their president said “This decision will surely be of great relief to many victims of crime who have been injured through no fault of their own. “It’s only right that, as a modern society, we continue to support innocent victims properly and provide them with the redress they need to help them get back on their feet. “Falling victim to crime can be a distressing experience and people can suffer real financial difficulties if they are unable to return to work while they are recovering. “It is imperative, now, that the new team at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) continues in this vein and listens to the needs of the innocent victim in all its reforms of civil justice.”

Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP Following the reshuffle of the Conservative and Liberal Democratic government, Prime Minister David Cameron has taken the unusual step of appointing a non-lawyer to the post of Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.

CLAIMSNEWS PUBLISHED MONTHLY

Chris Grayling rises to the top legal position following a career in media marketing before being elected as the Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell. Grayling moves to the Ministry of Justice from the Department for Work and Pensions where he held the position of Minister of State for Employment.

ONLINE DAILY

www.claimsnews.co.uk

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

CLAIMSNEWS Claims News is owned and published by Oates Consult Limited. All content and articles are provided for information only and do not constitute to legal advice. Oates Consult Limited own and operate the national claims brand, gocompensate.com for specialist firms of personal injury and medical negligence solicitors.

Complaints against doctors on the increase

Content used in this publication originates from original editorial content, panel solicitors news and/or articles published in the regional press. Where articles have been used from other publications, Oates Consult Limited has given the origin of the source. Editor Simon Oates

Advertising Vikki Oates

Subscriptions Automated

simon@oatesconsult.com 0845 3 299 585

vikki@oatesconsult.com 0845 3 299 585

www.claimsnews.co.uk

Š 2012. Oates Consult Limited. All rights reserved.

The General Medical Council has released figures showing an increase of 23% in a year concerning complaints made in the UK about doctors. The rise follows a common trend that has seen complaints climb by 69% in three years reporting 8,781 in 2011 compared to 7,153 in 2010. 158 complaints resulted in doctors either being suspended or struck off from the medical register with many more receiving warnings and/or advice. Of the 8,781 complaints made, the majority were against GPs, psychiatrists and surgeons with a proportion of these being against elderly male doctors. Despite the increase in complaints, the GMC is not worried by the figures and claims that there is no evidence of care getting worse and that the increase in complaints has arisen due to there being greater expectations placed upon the medical profession and a willingness to complain. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said “While we do need to develop a better understanding of why complaints to us are rising, we do not believe it reflects falling standards of medical practice. "Every day there are millions of interactions between doctors and patients and all the evidence suggests that public trust and confidence in the UK's doctors remains extremely high."

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Thomas Wolferstan, and his brother (and former partner) Harold, had taken their leave by that stage and the business had passed down through Thomas's nephew Henry Turner and seen various other businesses acquired, and partners taken on, including former policeman David Gabbitass, who had been persuaded to join the firm by Henry's son, Charles Turner, himself a partner in the firm.

Solicitors celebrate second centenary THERE aren't many local businesses that can claim to have been going 100 years, let alone twice that length of time. So when that big anniversary comes along it really is something to celebrate. Wolferstans Solicitors was established by Samuel Kelly in 1812.

Wolferstans had three partners and 17 employees in the latefifties. Gabbitass, who joined as an articled clerk and had long harboured dreams of becoming a lawyer, was running the practice within a decade. In 1970 Gabbitass moved the expanding firm into purpose-built premises, Deptford Chambers, at the top of North Hill. Henry Turner, now well into his eighties, retired soon afterwards, and the company was rebranded simply as Wolferstans. Under Gabbitass's guidance the firm grew and grew and in 1992, following one or two minor acquisitions, it merged with Rundle, Mcdonald and Rendle (founded in 1832), making Wolferstans one of the largest practices in the South West with 16 partners and over 120 staff.

It was a time when Plymouth was about to experience the greatest growth in population that it has ever known.

More recently the Stroud Stitson partnership has joined forces with Wolferstans and Brian Stitson works with the practice in their Plymstock office.

The Guildhall at the top of Looe Street was still new; the town's first-purpose built entertainment venue, Foulston's original Theatre Royal, had opened the year before, the Sutton Harbour Improvement Company had just been founded and there were plans for a Chamber of Commerce. Kelly took rooms alongside the Sutton Harbour Company in another new building, in Vauxhall Street, the Exchange.

In April 2001 the former Rundle Mcdonald and Rendle man, Paul Woods, took the helm and now Wolferstans is well set to enter its third century in good shape, with its remit wider than ever. "Three decades ago most of our work would have been residential conveyancing and not much else," says Paul Woods, "now this accounts for less than 10 per cent of our turnover."

Both enterprises flourished and, by the time Samuel Kelly handed over to his son John, the practice was very well placed locally.

The internet has changed aspects of legal work, as has the way we live – how little Samuel Kelly could have imagined that the firm he began now has seven departments, the biggest of which are Family, Medical Negligence and Personal Injury.

John Kelly was a highly respected figure and twice served Plymouth as mayor (1855-6 and 1872-3), but he had no natural heir. So in the early 1870s he welcomed into his office 32-year-old Thomas Wolferstan. Before long the firm had been restyled Kelly and Wolferstan and, on Kelly's death in 1879, Thomas took over. Five years later another local legal practitioner and former Mayor of Plymouth, Coplestone Lopes Radcliffe, also moved on and Wolferstan acquired his business – and with it the Stewardship of the Maristow estates and offices in Princess Square, where the firm was based for the next 60 years or so until German bombing rendered the most of the splendid square uninhabitable.

Furthermore half of those departments and more than half the staff generally, are women. That would have been unthinkable in 1812, as would the idea of the telegraph, telephone and television, not too mention the motor car, aeroplane and space rocket, or even the internet and iPad. Who knows what the future holds, however? One thing is fairly certain: we're still going to need solicitors.

Wolferstans Personal Injury Wolferstans Medical Negligence (Article originally published on thisisplymouth.co.uk)

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Inquest identifies Hepatitis B death is due to inadequate decontamination of equipment used in surgery An inquest into the death of a 68 year old has identified that a TOE probe used during heart surgery was inadequately decontaminated and caused a cross infection of Hepatitis B. An External Review Report which identified numerous problems of infection control was published after Nancy Lane from Aberaman, Aberdare contracted Hepatitis B during heart surgery at Morriston Hospital last year. Following her death, 32 recommendations were put to Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU). Mrs Lane had made a complete recovery from her heart surgery and was looking forward to enjoying her life to the full with her husband, children, grandchildren, family and friends. Her sudden and avoidable death was investigated by an expert panel. The investigation concluded that Mrs Lane was not the only patient to be affected and the Coroner found that it was more than likely that Hepatitis B was transferred from another patient because of failures in decontaminating a Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE) probe. The probe is a piece of equipment which uses ultra sound to scan the heart during surgery. A statement from the Lane family at the time of the Report expressed their grave concerns about hygiene levels and infection control at the hospital, and called for lessons to be learned and, as a priority, for the Health Board and NHS to put in place systems and processes to ensure patient safety.

“We are also told that changes in training were implemented, but we are concerned that when Dr Wigglesworth of Public Health Wales attended in January 2012 that there was some resistance demonstrated by consultant staff to the cause of Nancy becoming infected. “We accept that some changes have been implemented, but we feel that not all the issues behind hospital infections have been addressed such as poor and inadequate training. All Health Boards should make sure that staff training, as well as facilities in place, are fit for purpose so that staff can carry out high quality infection control, cleaning and decontamination.” Mrs Lane’s family has asked the Welsh Government to hold a Public Inquiry into the issues arising from the Expert External Review Panel report which raise serious questions about ABMU Health Board's management of infection control and risks to patient safety at the time of Mrs Lane’s operation and the health and safety of Health Board staff over many years. Some changes have been implemented by the Health Board but the family believe a Public Inquiry is needed to ensure appropriate changes are implemented across the NHS in Wales. Representing the family, Stephen Webber, Partner and medical negligence specialist at Hugh James Solicitors says: “This has been a tragic event for the Lane family and has brought to light serious issues within the NHS. The evidence showed that before Mrs Lane’s operation the procedures in place were inadequate, including the cleaning of the probe, training, and the culture as a whole. Some changes have been made, but the NHS needs to be vigilant and I feel that a formal review should take place in 12 months to ensure all changes have been implemented and infection control procedures are safe.”

The family also called for NHS establishments across the UK to put in place and adhere to strict procedures and policies to prevent cross contamination in order to ensure patient safety. Mrs Lane worked as a registered Nurse and Health Visitor with the NHS for most of her working life, which deepens the tragedy for her husband, sons, family and friends that failures at ABMU Health Board led to her untimely death. Responding to the outcome of the Inquest the Lane family state: “These events have devastated our family. Nancy dedicated herself to the NHS. She worked for the NHS and had total trust in the people and organisation looking after her. We feel that she has been completely let down. We were told that the Health Board had made changes following notification of her death in June 2011, but in August 2011 when the Review Panel attended the hospital they identified items of equipment reported to be clean and ready for use which were visibly contaminated, often with blood.

Stephen Webber is a Partner at Hugh James Solicitors

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Sometimes the problem is one of perception. You think the surgery on your nose is going to make you beautiful and solve all of your problems. Your expectations may be too high. The surgery may have been carried out correctly but you may be disappointed with the results. A reputable clinic will seek to manage your expectations of the surgery and its outcome. Finally you may be tempted to have cosmetic surgery overseas because it is cheaper. If it goes wrong, then you will not have the NHS available as an emergency backup. Also you will not have the safeguards of the English legal system. You would have to use the legal system of the country where the surgery was carried out.

Cosmetic Surgery With the recent PIP breast implant scandal and the Health Secretary announcing a review into the cosmetic surgery industry, cosmetic surgery has never been more in the spotlight. So what happens if it goes wrong?

If the cosmetic surgery does go wrong and you want to explore your legal options, talk to a specialist and experience medical negligence solicitor. Talk to me, Patrick Booth. I can be reached on 01332 225246 or by email at patrick.booth@smithpartnership.co.uk.

Most cosmetic surgery is carried out privately. Before committing yourself, make some enquiries. Is the clinic well known? Are you told in advance who will be doing the surgery? What is his or her qualifications? Have they done this type of surgery before? How many? Will they put you in contact with satisfied customers? Research the clinic on the internet. That can often provide some useful information. If you know the name of the doctor, check with the GMC to see if they are registered within the UK to practice medicine. Their list of registered doctors can be checked at www.gmcuk.org. Alternatively locate a reputable surgeon and hire them direct instead of going through a clinic. If you cannot locate a reputable surgeon, try checking with either the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, with a web site at www.baaps.org.uk, or the British Association of Plastic, Reconstruction, and Aesthetic Surgeons with a web site at www.bapras.org.uk. If the cosmetic surgery goes wrong, first talk to the clinic. They may be able to explain what happened. They may be able to offer further treatment either free of charge or at a reduced price.

Patrick Booth is a specialist in medical negligence at the Smith Partnership

Advertise with

CLAIMSNEWS Various options for solicitors, barristers, medical report providers, accident investigators, insurers, case management providers, recruitment agents

As this is a contractual arrangement, you have the same rights as any party to a contract if the there has been a breach of that contract. If there has been a breach of contract, you can claim damages, ask for your money back, or ask for further surgeon to correct the problem. If the company has been negligent in their treatment, you can sue them for compensation. You will have to establish that they were in breach of their duty of care towards you, that you have suffer a loss or an injury, and finally that his loss or injury was caused by the breach of duty.

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk

0845 3 299 585 www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Woman Awarded £4,000 after Collision with Uninsured Driver

Coles Miller Solicitors Help the Olympics

A Preston woman has been awarded £4,000 following her involvement in a collision with an uninsured driver. As the woman, and her partner who was driving, travelled along Skeffington Rd in Preston a white Astra van tried to overtake another vehicle on the opposite side of the road. Attempting this meant the Astra was on the wrong side of the road, and it then collided head on with the Ford Focus the woman was travelling in. It's thought the driver of the Astra was trying to evade police, after being pulled over a by a Police dog handler van. After the road traffic accident the Astra driver and other passengers left the car abandoned in an attempt to make off, but one was arrested while another was hit by another vehicle. After Police and ambulance were called to the scene the woman was moved to Royal Preston Hospital, where a diagnosis of a fractured sternum was made. As the Astra driver was uninsured, the case was made against the Motor Insurers Bureau under the Uninsured Drivers Agreement, by David Mayor. The Preston based Personal Injury Solicitor worked on the road traffic accident case on a no win no fee basis, with the woman being awarded £3,750 in PI damages and just over four hundred pounds in lost earnings.

WITH the 2012 Games now past, Coles Miller demonstrated their team spirit by relinquishing an employee for Olympic duties. Ruth Kerley, a partner at the Dorset law firm, was part of an army of volunteers working to ensure the Olympic events in Weymouth ran smoothly. “I am a volunteer driver and was responsible for making sure spectators, the press and family members of the athletes among others get to their destinations safe and in time to catch the scheduled events,” said Ruth.

The claimant was advised by Forbes Solicitors who handle all types of personal injury claims on a no win no fee basis and have offices based in Manchester, Preston, Accrington, Blackburn, Chorley, Leeds and Preston.

“It was a great privilege to be working as a volunteer at the Games, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of Coles Miller, who have released me on full pay.” During the Games, Ruth’s colleagues also be worked extra hard to ensure that Ruth could go and fulfil her Olympic duties without having any affect on her work in the office. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Dorset and indeed for Ruth,” said David Parfitt senior partner of the Firm.

For more information about Forbes Solicitors visit them at Forbes Solicitors

“We are proud to have someone from Coles Miller working as a volunteer at the Games and we are delighted to support her while she fulfils her ambitions.”

For more information on Coles Miller and Ruth Kerley visit Coles Miller.

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Pardoes condemn legal aid changes Top South West solicitors firm, Pardoes, has condemned the controversial Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is set to become law in April 2013. According to the firm, the changes will seriously affect a person’s ability to pursue a claim for personal injuries suffered as a result of medical negligence. The new legislation removes access to public funding for the majority of clinical negligence claims, therefore Pardoes is urging individuals who have suffered as a result of substandard medical treatment to come forward now, so that funding can be put in place and investigations commenced before Legal Aid is withdrawn.

Under the existing rules , successful claimants are entitled to recover an amount of money, which places them in a similar position to what they would have been in, had their medical treatment been of an appropriate standard. Additionally, successful claimants are entitled to recover legal fees from their opponents. As they can recover their costs the systemensures that the compensation element of any payment can be preserved to compensate the victim and help put them back into the position they would have been in but for another’s negligence or breach of duty of care owed to them.. Adding weight to Goodman’s arguments is Lord Justice Jackson, who was tasked with carrying out an independent review of the rules governing the costs of civil litigation and to provide recommendations in order to promote access to justice at proportionate cost. Lord Justice Jackson said in his final report, “I do however stress the vital necessity of making no further cutbacks in Legal Aid availability or eligibility. The Legal Aid system plays a crucial role in promoting access to justice at proportionate costs in key areas. The statistics demonstrate that the overall cost of litigation on Legal Aid is substantially lower than the overall cost of litigation on Conditional Fee Agreements. Since, in respect of a vast wave of litigation, the costs of both sides are ultimately borne by the public, the maintenance of Legal Aid at no less than the present levels makes sound economic sense and is in the public interest.” The Legal Services Commission’s own statistics show that the total cost of unsuccessful cases was £14.075million, whereas the total costs recovered in successful cases was £86.15million. Adopting Lord Justice Jackson’s wider proposals, Goodman claims that Lord Justice Jackson intended that Legal Aid should be left alone, and in his Cambridge lecture in September 2011, stated that, “Of all the proposed cutbacks in Legal Aid, the removal of Legal Aid from clinical negligence is the most unfortunate.”

Justin Goodman, Partner and Head of Medical Negligence at Pardoes, says, “The potential consequences of withdrawing public funding for clinical negligence claims may stop an individual’s ability to pursue a meritorious claim. In my opinion, Legal Aid is a service which the Government owes to the public, as a matter of principle. Just as the Government aims to protect the public against difficult obstacles in life, such as unemployment, disease and old age, it should protect them when difficulties arise as a result of another person’s actions. “Laws are put in place for the protection of all citizens, regardless of their personal circumstances. Therefore, in my opinion, it is the duty of the Government to make the legal system work for everybody. Our laws and freedoms are only as strong as the protection they provide to each individual, therefore, if we effectively withdraw a person’s ability to act and obtain justice when they have suffered a wrong, then you are withdrawing the right to a remedy based on social class and means - this can never be acceptable.” Another effect of the new legislation is that successful claimants will not be entitled to have their legal costs paid for by their opponents, which means they will have to fund these themselves. This could mean the compensation that was intended to help the injured person after the accident, will instead have to be used to pay for the costs of pursuing their legal claim

Goodman adds, “The argument from the state is that cases should not be funded when they can be provided for by alternative means. The difficulty at present is that there are no effective alternative means available. The market may well adapt and third parties may provide costs and disbursement cover under insurance-type arrangements, or the market could further develop to allow contingency fee-type agreements. However, this is very uncertain at the moment and is of great concern to any person who has been the victim of medical negligence and who has suffered significant injuries as a result. In the circumstances, and in the face of such uncertainty, then I would urge any people who feel that they may have been the victim of a medical accident to come forward now when funding can be secured under the present system.” Pardoes has a leading clinical negligence department and is one of a handful of firms still currently able to offer Legal Aid to its clinical negligence clients. Pardoes also offers its clients the option of funding their claims under a Conditional Fee Agreement and will continue to do so once the new legislation is in place.

For more information visit Pardoes

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Highest ever damages of £850,000 for child birth injury (Erb's Palsy)

Compensation for soldier who lost hearing through band practice

A 13 year old boy, who was born at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, was left with an Erb's Palsy injury (severe damage to his arm, hand and shoulder resulting in loss of function) due to the mismanagement of his birth at the hospital in Exeter. Tozers secured the highest ever payment of damages for a child with Erb's Palsy with an award of £850,000 being made to this boy, referred to as Child T. Born on 2 March 1998, Child T sustained serious damage to his arm, shoulder and hand at birth (Erb's Palsy). He has undergone two major operations to try to correct the injury but suffers on-going pain and is still unable to do most two-handed

A soldier who lost his hearing due to prolonged exposure to drums and bugles as a musician in the army has been awarded £300,000 compensation. He joined the army as an 18-year-old and spent four years as a musician in the band, which led to him being exposed to excessive noise. As a result, he suffered severe tinnitus and permanent bilateral hearing loss.

activities. At best his left arm is used as a support and it is likely that he will get arthritis in this arm as well. The pain experienced has led to Child T missing out on time at school because of the many inpatient admissions. A significant

He had hoped to serve in the army until he was 40 but was discharged when he was just 24 because of his condition. He intended to work in the retail trade where his disability wouldn’t be too much of a hindrance to him.

proportion of the damages award is to go towards ongoing It was unlikely that he would be able to earn as much as in the army. He was also without other employment benefits he had enjoyed such as private health care.

treatment.

He brought an action against the army saying it was negligent in allowing him to be exposed to such a high level of noise during band practices. He was awarded £300,000 in an out-of- court settlement to cover his pain, suffering and loss of amenity, his loss of employment and his loss of future earnings. Partner Tony Mills, secured this case victory for Child T and we believe that Tony has achieved the highest award for this type of injury ever seen in this country.

Please contact Jenny McKellar our Personal Injury expert in our Westbury office on 01373 865577 if you would like more information about making a personal injury claim with Middleton & Upsall.

SCHOOL GOVERNORS Converting to an academy? Fixed Fee Legal Service

For more information visit Tozers

Leading Academy Law Specialist www.academylegalservices.co.uk

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Legal Revolution

Over the last ten years there has been a social media explosion with applications such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to name but a few. What has this got to do with marketing your law firm post changes?

This is a transcript of a speech Simon Oates gave to the Elite Insurance Law Conference in Manchester in August 2012.

Claims management companies and the retail sector have been developing website technology for years to make it easier for consumers to purchase goods from them. Think of Amazon and every time you log on you see their suggestions for you based upon your internet search history. Think of Tesco and the fact that they are world leaders in crossselling and up-selling.

The legal revolution is upon us with wide sweeping changes to the provision of legal services enabling greengrocers to sell a commodity that once was reserved to the legal profession. With the implementation of the Legal Services Act and the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act it could be argued that today we are facing the wide-reaching changes in operations, attitude or operation that labels what you are going through as a ‘Revolution’. In fact the Lord Chancellor described this as “the first major overhaul of the civil justice system in 15 years”. For 400 years the legal profession simply erected a brass plaque at the door of their premises and the work came in. In marketing terms there wasn’t a great deal you could do with a brass plaque and so every solicitor had a level playing field to compete for business. For 400 years it was all about reputation and expertise and nothing to do with the packaging. After 400 years of non-existent marketing, The Law Society relaxed the rules in 1991 permitting solicitors to promote their services and suddenly we saw firms develop brands and start promoting their services through newspaper advertising and later in the decade through website development. Is it a revolution or is it simply evolution? Well, it is both! Darwin’s theory of natural selection couldn’t be more appropriate to the changes you face in the legal profession today. ‘The idea that species adapt and change by natural selection with the best suited mutations becoming dominant’. It’s time now to adapt and change and fight revolution with evolution. Since the introduction of the internet in the mid ‘90’s, firms were quick to embrace this new form of media and provide details of their services on their website. Effectively creating an online brochure.

Then think of ‘Tesco Law’ and how their experience in the retail sector will give them a distinct advantage in selling, crossselling and up-selling legal services. They have customer loyalty, they have convenience and they have the budget to hit the ground running when they launch Tesco Law. The Co-operative has already registered as an ‘Alternative Business Structure’ enabling them to capitalise on selling legal services to their bank and insurance customers – again capitalising on brand loyalty and convenience. Their Chief Executive has already confirmed that they will be introducing legal access points in many of their food stores throughout the UK. To look at how we market personal injury services following the implementation of the Legal Services Act and LASPO, we need to look briefly at the growth of the claims management industry over recent years. Over the last five years, the number of personal injury claims reported to the Compensation Recovery Unit has risen year on year. In 2004 there were approximately 2,000 Claims Management Companies charging an average referral fee of £250 per claim. Just over three quarters of a million claims were registered with the CRU. By 2010 this had risen by another 100,000 claims a year. There were a further 1,000 CMC’s taking 46% of the personal injury market and charging solicitors an average of £700 per claim. A year later solicitors were paying CMC’s an average of £800 per claim and the personal injury market had risen by yet another 100,000 claims per year. CMC’s had increased their market share to 48%. This year the number of claims reported the CRU topped a million. By tracking the same trend for CMC’s and solicitors, 2013 would have resulted in CMC’s and solicitors having an equal share of the personal injury market.

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

The Claims Management Companies today represents a market valued at £380million. Who paid for the growth of claims management industry? Solicitors through the payment of referral fees! Who lost out to claims management companies? Solicitors through the payment of referral fees!

Something had to be done! In July the Legal Services Board published a benchmarking report on the individual procurement of legal services. The content is encouraging. It shows an increasing trend of consumers of personal injury services selecting their legal provider on ‘expertise’ than any other factor. When asked how they became aware of their legal provider, the leading results included being influenced by a friend or relative, already knowing the provider, receiving contact from them or discovering them as a result of an internet search. Going forward, solicitors now have the opportunity to reclaim the claims market and help restore some dignity to the personal injury profession. The claims management companies won’t all disappear overnight. Some will purchase law firms, some will register as Alternative Business Structures, but most will fail as a result of LASPO and the ban on referral fees. The likes of Tesco, the Co-operative and other retailers entering the legal services market will provide commoditised legal services but the ‘legal profession’ is reserved for firms of solicitors and barristers chambers. Following the Legal Services Board report, we know the consumer wants expertise and it is now down to solicitors to adapt and change in the way they market their services. Claims management companies did everything right to raise awareness of compensation following an accident but the way they did it was tacky and far from professional. The sad thing is we see firms of solicitors replicating CMC advertisements on the television and in printed publications. The new kids on the block will pick up where the CMC’s left off. It won’t be long before we see the high street retailers advertising their legal services but the one thing they lack is the ‘professional’ element that some people crave when looking for their personal injury solicitor. Don’t go head to head against the commoditised providers because they will see you off as they have done with high street greengrocers, banks, insurers, electrical shops etc... Work together as a profession and restore credibility and professionalism to personal injury services.

The other ‘sleeping giant’ in the future of legal services provision is of course the ‘The Bar’. We see more barristers providing direct access services for personal injury and they too have the public perception of having the expertise and experience that the Legal Services Board report shows as a key element to the selection of legal service supplier. They are a ‘sleeping giant’ because many chambers have not marketed their services and have relied on work being referred to them from the solicitors. The question is whether barristers and solicitors can afford to compete for business against each other as well as against the Alternative Business Structures. I don’t think they can and think within 5 to 10 years we will see a ‘Law Council of England & Wales’ where barristers and solicitors will work together under one representative body forming a united professional body competing together against the commoditised legal service industry. The perception of ‘bigger is better’ has enabled the likes of Quality Solicitors hoover up firms throughout the UK who didn’t want to face the changes alone. Now sharing a common brand identity they are still the same firms operating in the same way but are comforted by the thought that they are all in this together. Marketing your firm is no longer about casting the net wide and seeing what you catch. There is a science to effectively marketing legal services and your approach has to be strategic and comparable with the long term direction of your firm. Marketing should be about engagement with your existing clients and prospect clients and understanding their legal requirements. Specifically for personal injury marketing it is about building relationships with case managers, headway, regional associations and charities but also developing affiliated legal services for membership organisations, unions and charities. You can’t pay them a referral fee, but neither can anyone else and so gradually marketing legal services to these organisations will level out becoming once again more focused on expertise and reputation rather than the packaging. Your marketing focus should be about ensuring you get the message out to potential claimants and suppliers of work that you have the expertise and the reputation. This means ensuring you have in place client feedback initiatives and the facility to capture comments that can easily represent your service as a testimonial. Ensure that large settlements and unusual cases are reported and published widely and that your news page on your website includes keywords to help drive potential claimants in your direction from search engines.

ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk


CLAIMSNEWS

Traditional methods of marketing (such as advertising) should be multi-layered. Promote your brand and services but encourage social engagement by directing traffic to dedicated website pages or social media applications.

CALLING ALL PERSONAL INJURY & In 2010 I launched gocompensate.com as an alternative to the claims management companies, realising their forthcoming demise. We work on the basis that we develop an interactive marketing service for specialist personal injury and medical negligence solicitors. By providing this service for accredited and specialist firms only, we have now recruited over fifty firms to our website and are now one of the leading suppliers of ‘referral fee free’ enquiries. Providing multiple back-links to your own website from dedicated personal injury and medical negligence regional pages, we connect panel firms with potential claimants on a local level. Our claims brand development service has also recently taken off with solicitors throughout the UK realising the potential that exists through the likely demise of the claims management companies. They can see that with the right website, high level of optimisation and professionalism – claimants will once again return to the doors of the solicitor rather than an intermediary. We see solicitors gradually reclaiming the claims market. The future is bright for personal injury lawyers and as Peter Drucker (a leading American management consultant) once said “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.

MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE SOLICITORS

gocompensate.com provides interactive marketing services for specialist solicitors and will shortly be launching its national marketing campaign

gocompensate.com do not charge referral fees and provide panel solicitors with an online profile for a fixed annual fee

JOIN YOUR REGIONAL PANEL TODAY

Personal injury is your profession, make sure you provide the professional alternative to commoditised legal services and make sure you promote your services as regional specialists. That will always remain your unique selling point over and above the commoditised suppliers. This is indeed ‘legal evolution’ and it is all about the survival of the fittest.

enquiries@gocompensate.com

0845 3 299 585 Panel Solicitor Information

www.gocompensate.com LAW MARKETING CONSULTANTS

0845 3 299 585 www.oatesconsult.com ISSUE 1 | SEPTEMBER 2012

www.claimsnews.co.uk

CLAIMS NEWS | ISSUE 1  

Claims news from around the UK

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you