The incoming president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has told colleagues they have no choice but to fight on in the face of government-imposed reforms.

Matthew Stockwell told the annual APIL conference at Celtic Manor near Newport yesterday that the claimant industry had failed to convince the Ministry of Justice of its case – but that should not mean the end of the PI sector.

Claimant lawyers have been banned this year from paying referral fees for cases and will be subject to reduced or additional fixed fees in the coming weeks and months.

Stockwell, a barrister based at St Johns Buildings Chambers in Liverpool, urged delegates to remain positive if they want to continue to represent injured people and stay in business.

‘The recent changes to litigation funding and procedure present an enormous challenge,’ he said. ‘They have already caused considerable uncertainty and disruption and will continue to do so for some time.

‘The government has not heeded our concerns. Against this unhappy background we have no choice but to react positively, adapt and find new ways to continue serving the needs of injured people.’

Stockwell warned the government that increasing the small-claims court limit will encourage claims management companies to exploit the gap in representation left behind by solicitors.

And he dismissed calls from the insurance industry that lawyers be cut from the system altogether, arguing that would lead to ‘under-settling claims and treating people unfairly’.

Admitting that the reputation of PI litigation had suffered in recent years, Stockwell said: ‘We have to continue to demonstrate the benefits of independent, specialist advice and be proud of what we do.’