Negligence claims against law firms halve

Topics: Law firm & practice management,City

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  • Royal Courts of Justice, Strand London

The number of professional negligence claims against law firms in the High Court has almost halved in a year, data compiled by City firm RPC reveal today. 

But the firm warned of a large amount of potential litigation in the background.

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The drop to 221 cases in 2015 down from 418 the year before is largely due to a fall in the number of claims emanating from the financial crisis, as time has run out to pursue the majority of ‘credit crunch’ claims.

But property or conveyancing disputes over subprime mortgages from the financial crisis could still spark more claims against solicitors who assisted their clients in buying properties at inflated values, the firm said.

RPC said many of these cases have been frozen under ‘standstill agreements’ – which means that the official figures may not be an entirely reliable indication of a drop in claims against solicitors.

The drop also comes after the number of negligence claims jumped by a third in 2014, meaning that the 221 negligence claims brought against solicitors in the last year is still more up 55% on the 143 cases brought in 2012/13.

Joe Bryant, a partner at RPC, said the fall in claims does not mean solicitors have seen the back of recession-related claims yet.

‘A large number of property and conveyancing cases are still sitting there dormant for now, whilst the claimants and their legal teams accumulate the evidence they need to bring their cases in front of a court,’ he said.

‘Due to the volume of claims that institutional lenders have pursued against solicitors and valuers since the recession began, we have seen a significant number of requests for these agreements over the past year or so, as claimants have struggled to get all of their claims up and running within time.’

According to RPC, the majority of claims against solicitors over the past year have come from women disappointed with their divorce settlements, or have emerged from litigation using ‘no win, no fee’ agreements.

Bryant added: ‘These cases are being brought on an industrial scale, on the back of carefully targeted advertising campaigns to bring the claimants through the door.’

‘Given that the court rules don’t require the loser to pay the winner’s legal costs until the matter reaches formal litigation, firms are launching into often spurious scatter-gun cases without starting court proceedings, purely in the hope of getting a low "nuisance" payment, free of any down-side if they fail.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • This has now grown into an industry. You only have to google "sue a solicitor" and pages of firm names come up.

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  • The Banks being the worst culprits, assisted by Judges who have never seen a conveyancing file, yet alone seen anything of the 'coalface'. Interesting to see if Cameron steps into end this 'have a go culture'......

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  • "Have a go culture" is deemed perfectly acceptable when solicitors are targeted feeding in to the bias confirmation of the establishment that we are all useless rogues

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  • David, Of course suing solicitors has turned into an industry.
    Firms are now earning £500 for RTA cases. Professional negligence cases don't have fixed costs...yet.
    And on £500 per case who can afford to do the extra work that might identify the injury as far more serious than it first appeared?
    This is the tip of the iceberg of an increasing number of under-settled claims.

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  • David, you are right I did just that there were quite a few. I wonder if I type into google "need to sue the solicitor that sued my solicitor" what will pop up.

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  • That will be redundancies amongst professional indemnity lawyers then.

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  • I've heard that the redundancies have already started at the large insurance firms such as Hill Dickinson.

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