Archive for October 24th, 2013

Could the purge of the personal injury industry actually be a good thing?
Tim Deakin

It’s not always easy to find the silver lining in the midst of a crisis. But there is a growing feeling in the personal injury industry that the Jackson Reforms might have a more positive impact on the claims management landscape than initially thought.

Although the full effects of the legislation changes have not yet been felt by the majority of the industry – due to the average length of a compensation case being more than a year, most businesses will still be processing claims under the old system for some time – there is widespread agreement that the next 12 months will see a seismic shift in the industry.

As the profitability of PI diminishes, it is likely that smaller firms will disappear or be absorbed by the larger organisations. Another probable outcome is that solicitors withdraw their 100% compensation offers to protect against the loss of profit.

Of course, the real victim in all of this is the accident victim. If solicitors are forced to collect the full 25% of compensation awarded or even turn away claimants when the new legislation surrounding small claims in road traffic accident cases comes in, it is the man (and woman) on the street who suffers most. The result of this will be an increase in individuals representing themselves in court with no prior experience of pursuing compensation, and a decrease in legitimate claims from those afraid of expending time, energy and money on a case they don’t feel they can win.

Where there are challenges there are also opportunities

So where does the silver lining lie?

For those progressive legal businesses equipped to provide a swift, efficient service the stick used liberally by the Jackson Reforms is likely to be followed by the carrot of fewer competitors and an opportunity to grow market share. Claims management firms such as Winn Solicitors, which is based in Newcastle Upon Tyne where overheads are considerably cheaper, promise to retain their commitment to 100% compensation despite the squeezing of their margins.

And what about the wider road traffic accident landscape? Well, for those businesses able to steer their ship safely through the legal storm surrounding PI, there’s something else on the horizon that might just give them hope. As suggested in a previous guest post on this blog the legal industry is undergoing a PI reputation crisis currently. Stirred up by both the media and, to a large extent, insurers looking to place blame elsewhere for rising insurance premiums, accident victims are now afraid of being tarred with the “compensation culture” brush.

The purge brought about by the Jackson Reforms may weed out the unscrupulous claims firms in the UK, it may simply send smaller or less efficient organisations out of business, but what we must hope it will do is remove the stigma surrounding Personal Injury. Once this is achieved, Britain might just be left with a transparent, regulate service accepted and used responsibly by the public. And the question then is, “Who will insurers have left to blame for their premium hikes?”

Guest author 
This post has been brought to you by Tim Deakin, he has been writing online for a number of years and has spoken with Winn Solicitors to gather the data found within this post.

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Why you shouldn’t be afraid of claiming against an employer

Making an injury at work claim can be a difficult prospect for workers, as they may feel uncomfortable attempting to take compensation from an employer.
By Sheldon Davidson Solicitors
If you suffer an injury at work, the prospect of making a complaint against your employer can be a little daunting.
Depending on the size of the company you work for, you may also be concerned that their financial muscle will mean you are unlikely to compete with them when it comes to the quality of your legal representation.
You may also be concerned that a losing claim will make potential future employers wary of hiring you, while some may mistakenly believe that they will need to wait until they have secured compensation before they can begin paying for specialist medical care.
If you have worked for a company for a long time, it is also possible you will have developed an emotional attachment to your job and may consequently be hesitant about making a claim against the organisation.
No win, no fee claims
What you may not know is that a successful claim will not see your employers having to pay your compensation out of their own pocket.

It is their insurance company who will foot the bill should you successfully secure compensation. Businesses will be prepared to deal with accident at work claims as they arise, and so once a claim is made the process of pursuing damages should not come as a surprise to them.

As for your choice of solicitor, many will provide a service on a no win, no fee basis. This means you will not have to pay a penny until such time as you have successfully achieved a compensation reward. This means it is perfectly possible to find the necessary calibre of legal representative needed to succeed with your claim.

While the law surrounding the no win, no fee system changed earlier this year, you should still pursue your claim to receive the compensation you deserve.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 means that you may now have to pay up to 25% of your compensation towards solicitor fees if your claim is successful, whereas before this money would have come from the losing side. You should check to see what your solicitor’s policy is regarding this, and not all firms elect to take money from their clients.

As for medical care, a good solicitor will ensure you receive this as soon as possible, helping you to recover as quickly as possible without having to wait for the conclusion of your case.

Whatever your concerns are about making an injury at work claim, an experienced solicitor will be able to answer all your questions and address any apprehension you be feeling.

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Adapting to the post referral fee world by going online

It’s now been six months since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force, which for those unfamiliar few, brought with it a ban on solicitors paying referral fees to obtain work.

LASPO predictably lead to a sharp decline in the number of claims management companies who were the primary recipient of referral fees.  So with firms no longer able to obtain work in this way they’ve had to find new approaches to attract perspective clients.

This is where some firms have started to look towards the Internet, and the online space is packed full of opportunities for legal professionals if you know where to find and how to use them.

#1 Website

While most law firms have a website, you should firstly review the content to ensure it’s detailing all your services and sets out why clients should instruct you over the thousands of other law firms out there.

Once your site is in good shape you’ll then need to go out and attract some visitors.

#2 Blog and Content Generation

When building a legal case lawyers know they’ll need to collect a substantial amount of evidence to reinforce its validity.   That foundation work is the key – and it’s no different when building an online presence.

The foundation work here comes from sharing your unique experiences and opinions on subjects you are passionate and knowledgeable about.  This can be done in a variety of formats but the most popular is by creating a blog.

A blog can reside on your firm’s website or on a completely independent site.  Those wanting to keep things separate can use free platforms us as WordPress and Blogger, or for those desiring a more media rich platform could even try Tumblr.

But the key to this isn’t the technology that you use; it’s creating an outlet to produce regular content.  Just by posting your opinion on a new piece of legislation, or general guidance on a legal matter can allow your insights to be read by peers and potential clients alike.

#3 Social Media

The number of social networks is ever increasing and trying to maintain a presence on all of them would be a full time job.  That’s why it’s important to find a social network you are comfortable with and which has an audience interested in what you have to say.

Use of social media can range from publishing your blogs, taking part in discussions or simply sharing items that are of interest.

Everyone has (hopefully) heard of facebook and twitter, so I’m not going to focus on them.  Instead I’m going to touch on a growing network that shouldn’t be overlooked, Google+.

Just like facebook and twitter, Google+ is a place for you to share content, discuss topics and stay up to date with contacts.  On Google+ you can have an individual profile as well as a page for your firm, allowing you to interact on behalf of both.  And it’s this interaction which is the key on any social network; as just broadcasting news to the public isn’t being particularly social!

I’ve found myself using Google+ more and more recently as it has most of the features of twitter/facebook whilst also interfacing with other great Google products (maps, reviews, email etc.)  For anyone wanting to give Google+ a try, I recommend this Google+ guide for an understanding of almost every feature.

But the most important factor in using any social network is that you enjoy interacting with the people that are there.  So try as many networks as possible until you find the right fit for you.

#4 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

This is where it can get a bit technical but with a little knowledge you can get your content, services and firm out to a much wider audience.

The whole idea behind SEO is to better inform search engines (Google, Bing etc.) that your site is the most relevant in its niche.  So if someone types in ‘solicitors in Sheffield’ there’s a better chance of your website being in the first couple of pages as opposed to buried on page 36!

There are many, many ways of doing this and depending on your business priorities some techniques may be better done with the help of an experienced SEO agency.  However there are a few basic tips to keep in mind which will help you get noticed:

Don’t bury the lead – If you’ve created a great blog explaining what happens at a court hearing, don’t give it a vague title like ‘County Court Procedure’.  Call it what someone might search for, such as ‘What happens when I go to court?’ or ‘What’s involved in a court hearing?’

Don’t make sharing difficult – Make it as easy as possible for people to share your content.  Most social networks provide code snippets you can add to a webpage or blog allowing visitors to quickly share, tweet or like.

Help people find your website – Links to your website from other sites not only send visitors your way but are also an indicator to search engines that your site is popular and relevant.  So check that all of your online listings have links to your site.  Does your Law Society entry contain your web address?  Do all your office locations appear on Google Maps?

#5 Pay per Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC is simply bidding for ad space search engines, so when someone types in a certain phrase your ad will appear if you’ve bid enough.  However you only pay a fee when the person actually clicks on your ad and is taken to your site.

As with SEO, and depending on your budget, it may be better to instruct an online agency to build your PPC campaign.  As researching search terms, creating adverts and managing performance can be a time consuming exercise and take a while to get right.  But if you just want to try PPC with a small budget Google Adwords does provide free help with setup to get you started.

Whatever your budget, there are a few things I’ve learnt that can help almost any campaign:

Be Specific – When selecting the search terms you want to target, be as specific as possible.  If you only deal with industrial disease claims ensure your terms focus just on these services. Whilst targeting general terms like ‘solicitors’ may get you a lot of traffic you’ll be paying for people looking for conveyancing solicitors etc.

Use Ad Extensions – Ad extensions can provide additional content to your ads like an office address, a phone number and social network links.  All of which can make your ad standout above the competition.

Don’t neglect your landing page – When focussing on the cost per click, number of visitors, adverts etc. it’s easy to forget the actual webpage you’re sending visitors to.  Don’t send everyone to your homepage when they’re searching for a specific legal service, and be sure the page clearly tells them about what you offer and how to get in touch.

In conclusion …

There is no silver bullet to attract direct clients post-LASPO, but a little time and effort along with a combination of the above techniques can certainly help generate work online.

What’s worked for you? Do you have any other tips? Put your thoughts in the comments below

About the Author

Martyn Gilbert is Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors having worked in the legal industry for over 16 years.  Martyn oversees all digital marketing at the firm including online ad campaigns and social media activities.

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Try, try and try again: the secret to legal success

No-one ever achieved anything by giving up. That is a fact of life.

Unfortunately, if you want something badly enough, you need to really work at it. That can mean having to take on insurmountable odds and tackle things that seem out of your reach.

Exactly the same thing applies to your job.

The employment situation in the country isn’t as good as it could be right now. Having a job is in itself is an achievement. After all, if your job is a good one (or even if it isn’t) it is the culmination of years at school, college and universities, of endless revision, of sleepless nights doing assignments, of fretting over job interviews, trying desperately to impress the CEO and generally working yourself as hard as possible.

If your job gets taken away from you for no good or sound reason, you need to fight back.

Many people who lose their jobs give up without a fight, completely unaware that they may have been the unwitting subject of a constructive dismissal.

What exactly is constructive dismissal?

This is a situation whereby your employer has committed a serious breach of contract. They might have refused a request for holiday that you are entitled to, ignored or even instigated some form of abuse or harassment or just generally made your working environment a very unpleasant place to be.

If you were forced to resign, and resign promptly, as a result of such breaches of contract, then you could have a case, and should look into making a claim.

In order to make a claim, an employee would need to raise a formal complaint about that breach which will then kick off a three-step procedure. After some sort of meeting or summit, a proper decision will be taken and you as an employee will have a right to challenge that decision.

Click here to learn more about constructive dismissal and other related issues.

Why you should fight back?

You worked hard for your job. It is important to you and says a lot about who you are. If you genuinely think you have a legitimate case against your employer, then take it on. You don’t need to take any decision lying down and it’s important that you protect your livelihood, especially given the current economic climate.

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