The Law Society Research Unit informs me that 14% of all solicitors practising in England and Wales undertake personal injury work. In the north-west, it rises to 34% and in Merseyside to 40%. The unanimous view of Ministry of Justice proposals to slash fees for dealing with injury claims is that they will lead to substantial redundancies. The public will not, of course, shed a tear for lawyers, but the pain will extend also to support staff.
The north-west excels at PI work – and exports its skills throughout the land. This is a vital strand of its knowledge-based economy and the region can ill-afford to suffer looming job cuts. The perverse irony is that the only sure winners from the changes are insurers based in the City, where they are reported to be taking up expensive office space in prestige skyscrapers. I cannot help but think that if jobs in the City faced a commensurate threat the government would be fighting to protect them rather than leading the assault.
When one considers that small and medium-sized enterprises are also likely to suffer disproportionately, the generous among us might conclude that the government has not properly thought this one through. That would not be particularly surprising given that the die was seemingly cast after the prime minister’s summit earlier this year, to which only insurers were invited. It must be acknowledged that a minority of lawyers have abused the system by forcing cases to disposal to claim the success fee.
These practices have helped bring about conditions ripe for the siren calls of the insurance industry, but they have also been dealt with by LASPO. These additional changes are a step too far and it is time for the government to listen to all sides of the debate.
Richard Edwards, E Rex Makin & Co, Liverpool