We are faced with the possibility of 85% of all personal injury work being squeezed into the small claims court and de minimis fixed fees for whatever work is left. It will surely take a bold act for claimant PI solicitors to save themselves from oblivion (or retraining, if the Ministry of Justice is to be believed).
So why does the Law Society not ballot its members on an outright ban on solicitors accepting work from claims management companies?
When I began dealing with injury claims, many clients qualified for free legal aid. They received all of their compensation, which was worth about the same in real terms as it is today; and they did not face the risk of fundamental dishonesty allegations.
As for us, we were paid regardless of the outcome. Nobody had to ‘buy’ claims from third parties and costs were not fixed. So, overall, this type of work was far more attractive for both solicitors and clients than it is today.
How is it, then, that we did not have insurers camped outside Downing Street complaining about the ‘compensation culture’ and lobbying government to wipe out solicitors? What has changed? The most significant and damaging development in the last 20 years has been the invention and rise of CMCs. They add nothing to the process but do immense harm to our reputation. If I want to take my dog to a vet, I go direct – not to an intermediary who then introduces me to a vet and takes a proportion of their fee. Furthermore, I have yet to receive a text or telephone call from somebody asking if my dog is in need of treatment.
I suspect that if the Law Society were to ask us, we would vote for a ban. A properly enforced ban might just persuade the government to think again about its ill-considered reforms and may go some way to restoring our credibility with the public.
Martyn Brown, solicitor, Integrum Law, Birkenhead