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Archive for April 8th, 2010

Today I am talking to David Innes who  or many years worked with a law firm handling the law firm’s relationships with clients.  David raises a number of important issues and gives a fascinating insight into how having a client relationship programme can have have significant benefits to  law firms.

Listen to the podcast

Download David Innes flyer/contact details

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A couple of interesting stories this morning – first, the vexed issue of solicitors paying referral fees to CMCs to get personal injury and other work.

A ban on referral fees may be too late for lawyers

Claims management companies (CMC) came into being over ten years ago. The basic idea – and as Rose said in his article, you will have seen the adverts on the television….”Injured at work’ etc etc –  is that an individual seeking legal advice will contact a CMC and solicitors will then ‘buy’ the case from the CMC for £600-£800.  Neil Rose, writing in The Times, ends his excellent article with these words:

CMCs came into existence a decade ago because solicitors failed to take the marketing opportunity thrown up by the introduction of no-win, no-fee agreements for personal injury work. Now, they now face a serious battle to hold on to the legal work itself.

Rose’s article is worth reading because both The Law Society and The Bar want referral fees to be banned – some even want it to be made a criminal offence to pay referral fees. CMCs.  Rose notes “The number is now 3,366 and growing fast. The claims management industry’s turnover as of June last year (when there were 2,456 businesses) was put at £382 million.”

Lord Justice Jackson also wants referral fees to be removed from the legal system. Rose continues “Lord Justice Jackson argued that referral fees have driven up costs and brought no benefit — they should be banned in personal injury and possibly other areas too, he said…….The judge was not persuaded by the argument made by CMCs that they have widened access to justice by making people more aware of their rights, saying that there are plenty of other avenues for people with claims to find a lawyer. Further, he said, “it is offensive and wrong in principle for personal injury claimants to be treated as a commodity”. Most lawyers would agree — the Law Society and Bar Council would both like the ban reinstated — but equally those who pay them are generally resigned to the commercial reality of referral fees.”

With the impending election, it may well be some time before this issue comes up again – a new government may well have other priorities.  Not all lawyers are in favour of a ban.  There are many lawyers who are entirely reliant on buying cases from CMCs and as Rose notes they could become desperate men and women if a ban is introduced for they do not have the marketing reach of the big CMCs.  Will it affect access to justice?  That is more doubtful – people who are injured will still need a lawyer – but while Google is a powerful tool, it is not always easy to discern quality from a website.  Presumably the CMCs do some form of quality control when they select their solicitors… or do they just flog the cases off to the highest bidder?

Hat Tip to Brian Inkster of Inksters for alerting me to the fact that by a narrow margin solicitors in Scotland voted yesterday to accept Alternative Business Structures – a majority of 24. The second question, whether the Society should be involved in regulating the new service providers, produced a much bigger majority, 3,622 to 844, an 81% yes vote.  The Journal Online: ABS wins by a whisker

And talking of Scotland… this time Baroness Scotland, the attorney-general.

The Times thundered...perhaps prematurely, given that the trial continues… Baroness Scotland ‘did not ask cleaner about immigration status’

The Attorney-General asked her cleaner, an illegal immigrant, to start immediately on piles of ironing and laundry, without seeing a passport or even asking about her immigration status, a court was told yesterday.

Naturally, the commenters on The Times were out in force.  Typical of the genre…

Martin Carter wrote:
Any chance of this case bringing New Labour crashing down just before voting day? Is it possible that Scotland might be proven to have lied under oath?
Probably not, Martin – but I may change my view when the trial is over and the verdict is in. I find this time honoured practice most satisfactory before jerking my knees.

Digital economy bill rushed through wash-up in late night parliamentary session

Government drops clause on orphan works but inserts amendment criticised as over-broad which could block sites based on ‘intent’

Much commented on on Twitter… the much maligned Digital Economy Bill was rushed through Parliament last night. The Guardian has the story and OUT-LAW has some interesting comment, albeit written before last night’s antics: The legislative farce of the Digital Economy Bill.

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Overhaul of libel laws ‘will have to wait’

The Independent reports: ” Plans to cut the profits of law firms who bring libel claims against the media have been dropped, MPs have been told. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, had promised an overhaul of Britain’s libel laws after a review found the rules had a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression. Among the reforms was a draft law to reduce the fees charged by “no-win no-fee” lawyers in defamation cases from 100 per cent to 10 per cent. But yesterday, the Commons Leader Harriet Harman said the plan was “not going anywhere”, confirming that it would need to be reintroduced by the next government after the general election.

Some will be disappointed with this – but for the long term reform of this complex and emotive area of law, it is right that Parliament reviews the matter most carefully.  We have quite enough badly drafted and rushed legislation on the books already.

Well known legal blogger Jack of Kent has addressed this issue in a well reasoned and closely argued piece: Why MPs should support libel costs reform this week

The Sun continues with ‘top of the game in-depth analysis’ with comment on Brown’s ‘illiteracy’ and informs us that with Posh it is SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX and SEX as she tries for another baby.

And… we must of course forget about puns.. The Sun is right in there with Rosie raises the bra

In London we are going to have sunny intervals and the temperature could fluctuate wildly from 6-16C – although the BBC does change the weather forecast quite often during the day. Probably best to have a quick look out of the window.


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