Thursday, 23 May 2013


A classic display in the post yesterday of what insurers euphemistically term “efficiency”.

Proceedings just issued in a road traffic claim. First defendant is the driver and the second defendant his insurer, directly liable under the European Communities (Rights Against Insurers) Regulations 2002. It’s a fairly common scenario.

The court sends copy of the claim form and the particulars of claim to the insurers who post them to us demanding more information before they can process it.

First is the date of the accident. Well, that will be the date that appears half way down the front page of the claim form and at paragraph 1 of the particulars of claim – immediately following the phrase “road traffic accident on..”

Next, they need their insured’s name and address.  He’s probably the chap named as first defendant who, as paragraph 3.2 of the particulars explains, was insured to drive by you.

The insured’s vehicle registration number?  Er, that’s also at paragraph 3.2, just ahead of the explanation that you’re the first defendant’s insurers...

They'd like our client’s name and address. Hmm. We are fairly obviously the claimant’s solicitors so this guy may well be the claimant whose name and address appears at the very top of the front page of the claim form?

They also want our client’s vehicle registration number.  That will be the one recited at paragraph 3.1 of the particulars of claim. 

Take note, you claimant solicitors.  If you could be anywhere near this efficient, you would be able to deal with claims at a fraction of the inflated costs that you presently command.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Animal Farm

Brace yourselves for what the Sunday Times aptly describes as the “potentially toxic announcement” next month that MPs are to take a £10,000 pay rise.

Pause while that sinks in….yes, £10,000 – each.

I’m guessing that will include all those who cheated their way to huge dollops of extra cash through the second homes scandal, many of whom don’t seem to have paid the price.

Will it include the high-profile liar, Huhne, who seems to be at large again after an indecently short period of time, complaining that he can’t afford to pay the legal costs awarded against him?

They will say of course that all the fiddling exposed by The Telegraph in 2009 was a result of poor pay and we need to address the root cause of the problem etc, etc.

I’m not clear what account this takes of the fact that these public servants went into the job knowing what the terms were and have suffered no more injustice than that they’ve not had a rise for a number of years.

Hey – welcome to the party, guys.

It’s not as if you’ve seen a part of your business rendered completely unviable by an arbitrary decision to slash by 60% the amount you can get paid for doing the same job, with no cogent explanation other than that we need to keep insurers happy.

To a large extent the consequences of that will not be continued pay freeze, or even pay cuts – but unemployment.

Meanwhile, we’re closing down the NHS, we’re wiping civil legal aid, we’re savaging the criminal justice system, we’re shutting courts up and down the country  – all because we can’t afford it.

But those inflicting the pain get more, substantially more?

One senior MP has expressed concern that they’ll be accused of having their snouts in the trough (you reckon?) but that “voters may not like it but if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

I agree. See, for example Peanuts and Cleaning bills

But why is it OK for innocent accident victims to make do with cheap, shoddy service? Why must ordinary folk take their life in their hands, literally, every time they go to hospital? Why must those threatened with loss of liberty trust to a fixed-price truck driver for representation before the law?

While those in government scoop the benefit of the savings, so they can pay privately for their essential services and keep all their insurer and banker chums sweet, and a chair at the boardroom table warm for when they finally slip away from this exciting and rather insulated public life.

We’re all in this together, are we? Read Five grand (twice). Check Osbo’s shopping list.

I don’t buy it. Seems to me some animals are a lot more equal than others.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dances with wolves

I was almost squirming with embarrassment as I read a press report this afternoon under the heading Midlands ABS issues ‘join us’ plea to insurers.

For those who don’t immediately recognize the terminology an ABS is an alternative business structure, approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, that allows lawyers to share ownership and profits with non-lawyers. Traditionally we weren't allowed to and…no, that’s another story.

Liability insurers have got excited about them because it’s seen as a way to team up with a law firm and perpetuate the relationships that were fuelled by referral fees prior to 31 March this year when the ban on bungs came into force. Many are saying it will just carry on but behind closed doors.

Shakespeares, a near-700 strong Midlands law firm with a decent reputation, has been granted ABS status. Having had the op, it’s apparently keen to get into bed with an insurer – any insurer, by the sound of it!

They’re said to be “ABS-ready and looking to team up with any insurance firm wanting to enter the legal market”.

It brings to mind instantly all those devil-worship books and films where the hapless disciple moves heaven and earth (literally, sometimes) to summon up a massively powerful and treacherous beast that slaps the dismayed devotee around for a while before devouring them.

Partner Craig Wallace is reported to have said that he’s “sure that for insurers in particular, an ABS will bring opportunities to drive efficiencies, improve processes and life-cycles and therefore reduce costs.”  


They say if you run with wolves, you’ll get bitten.

Eaten, more like.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Horses for courses..

So, the Co-op is opening a law school now – a “learning academy”.

This educational bombshell follows hot on the heels of the news that its banking group has been downgraded to (quote) “junk status”. Who would blame the chief executive for making a sharp exit?

Three weeks ago we saw the dramatic abandonment of plans to acquire hundreds of high street outlets from Lloyds. The Co-op blamed the failure of that deal on the continuing parlous state of the economy.

Like it was about to change? Do they truly think the Bank of England and the City enjoy telling the world that we’re in the mire long term? Or that an increasingly unpopular and feckless administration would not seize any opportunity to announce that its inept strategy is about to come good?

I don’t suppose it has anything to do with Failing Grayling’s demolition of what might have been a model that an established and historically trusted name could exploit to reasonable advantage, and profit ?

Liability insurers persuaded the Government that without referral fees of £700 or £800 lawyers didn’t need to be paid more than £500 to run “low value” cases. We all know that’s a fallacy for two reasons.

One is that £500 isn’t enough, arguably in any but a small minority of cases but certainly on average, to do a decent job. It’ll buy you a horse-burger.

The other is that there are marketing expenses even for those that sell pure beef quarter-pounders of legal service. Admittedly those costs will be far less than the outlay of the ‘lawyers’ at the bottom of the food chain who buy in all their cases because they couldn’t ever win a job on reputation or recommendation.

It was ripe for a successful retailer with a trusted brand that could cut the middle ground, be a bit but not much cheaper than the slickest good guys and almost always outperform on the marketing and customer service.

Is the truth in fact that this consummately savvy shopkeeper has concluded that it can no longer dish up a decent product at the prices set by the Cameron- ABI cartel?

Big focus is now on family services, so that we shan’t even realise that this is a quiet withdrawal from the wrecked personal injury market.

Not much being said either about employment where it will be difficult for a large organization to resolve upon a consistent policy to support – or not – meritorious claims for ordinary folk who don’t have £££ to pay the tribunal service to access justice.

Losing popular support after many years march on legal services for the masses? Remember what was and has always been the precursor to “Tesco Law”.

I don’t see Terry Leahy laying out plans for Law Express, but then he’s already demonstrated the problems of flogging a dead horse.

The Co-op has always provided, in my perception, value for money and commanded a credible slice of the markets in which it was competent to compete. Its retreat from legal services that will no longer pay when sold as a bulk commodity is commensurate with those values.

Good with food.

Horses for courses?