Friday, 30 December 2011

Money down the drain awards 2011

The Treasury Solicitor's office has led the pack this year for wasting public funds sending communications by every conceivable medium but there's a late entry from the Independent Safeguarding Authority, or ISA.

Last Friday we had by e-mail copy of an application to an employment tribunal for an order extending time for compliance (that's another story) with a non-party disclosure order. Happy with that. Hats off to Exeter ET incidentally for the speed and efficiency of dealing with it - administratively and judicially.

We also had the letter and enclosures from the ISA by fax. Well, OK, it was urgent I suppose.

This morning my practice manager has been to the sorting office to collect a recorded delivery Signed for secure envelope that couldn't be delivered whilst we were closed over Christmas. I open it to find the same pages that I've already had by e-mail and fax - sent to me after the event.

Both sides knew it was all done and dusted because the ET e-mailed us an order (and as far as I can see, didn't waste time and money posting a copy).

As I've said before it's the tip of an iceberg. As a nation we'd probably save significant time and money if someone would encourage some departures from "the way we've always done it".

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A real hustle

If you've ever watched The Real Hustle you've probably been amazed at some of the things that people can get away with if they have the confidence to try. Who dares wins?

The latest scam from liability insurers is a bold attack on the fixed costs schemes that presently apply to a number of categories of personal injury claims, starting with low-value road traffic - or “Portal” - claims.

This comes on the back of the announcement of a ban on referral fees for which of course insurers quickly voiced support, hoping to distract attention from the extent of their sly profits that were suddenly exposed to the daylight.

Now they seek to turn it all to their advantage by arguing that since some, not all, claimants’ solicitors will no longer be paying referral fees to acquire the business, the fixed costs should be reduced.

Which of course will produce a saving for insurers – on ALL claims, not just those that might have been bought by payment of a referral fee.

That fact demonstrates where the logic of the present argument crumbles. It won’t just be lawyers who previously paid for claims continuing to run them in the future. There will be all the others, like me, who never did and whose overheads don’t change as a result of the ban.

Those overheads still include other forms of marketing – areas in which many firms who previously purchased from claims management companies will find themselves spending similar amounts in the future as they look for alternative business leads.

So, the insurers’ point is a duff one regardless of how the original fixed-fee deal was conceived and structured.

Perhaps that’s why we are hearing and reading the contention that the existing scheme factored in an allowance for referral fees. The MOJ will quickly swallow it where there is no resource or political will to challenge the insurance industry.

Representatives of respectable and fair players such as APIL are quite clear in their account that referral fees formed no part of the Portal fees deal of which they were one of the architects, along with insurers. Why ever should it have done?

The costs were calculated having regard to the amount of time required to run the claims and the expense of it.

That has proved inadequate, many will say, because of the antics of insurers looking to exploit loopholes and push the bounds as they so often do. No wonder they say the system works well – pity nobody has seen them reduce levels of premia as a result.

One comes to expect all that but this latest assault is a serious threat to justice and the MOJ needs to wake up to it. Bear in mind that the insurance industry wants to extend these lower cost claims environments to higher value and more types of injury claim.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Claims theft

Yesterday I received nineteen identical copies of an e-mail from a claims management company.

The cheerful message - entirely out of the blue - vaunted my free listing on the website.

Not just that – I may add further details, update and improve my profile and it will still not cost me anything!  I can even send them a description of my firm and its specialities, which they will upload.

The message closes with “if you have any questions or are looking for personal claim (sic) referrals, please also feel free to get in touch”

Oh, and the customary “Kind regards” from “The Team” none of whom I know from Adam.

Miserable bastard aren’t I? A bit of free advertising and that’s my attitude to it.  Bah humbug.

So, how many more of you have had this sort of gift and stopped to think why such generosity? 

Well it’s simple and really quite annoying when you think about it.

If you spend enough time and effort, enhanced with some real attempts at search engine optimisation, you will get your firm’s name up the listings.  The more focussed the search, the more likely that the majority or all of your listings appear at the top of the Google list.

So your free listing on this site will generate a hit and maybe the person who is looking for a personal injury lawyer will follow the link to this site.  Maybe they will get in touch with details of their claim.

Where will the business go then?  Remember, you have decided that you will just enjoy the free publicity and not pay referral fees.

If you have not thought this through before, think about it now and just consider how many “free listings” you have.  Take active steps to get them removed and write to the Ministry of Justice Claims Management Unit at