Personal injury firms can survive and prosper in the new era of lower fixed fees if they upskill their workforce and filter out more profitable cases, a leading legal consultant has told the Gazette.
Lesley Graves (pictured), founder of Citadel Law, said that up to 10% of claims on a firm’s books are multi-track cases that will be worth more than £25,000 – but they are usually missed because of IT-led processes lumping all claims together.
From this week, PI firms will receive £500 for claims worth up to £10,000 run through the RTA Portal, a drop of around 60%. Claims worth up to £25,000 will also be subject to fixed fees from July.
Graves said the best firms will take on more qualified staff to find more profitable cases and cover lower-value claims as a loss leader. ‘Firms need to get the right systems in place and pull out the one case with more serious injuries, making sure cases worth more than £25,000 have the right expertise and hourly rates.
‘Those cases are the crown jewels. Of course there needs to be a strong element of process in low-value PI cases, but process must be underpinned by strong legal expertise at key points to ensure a proper evaluation of a case and avoid negligence.’
Graves, a former partner at Irwin Mitchell, said the best firms have adopted a ‘back-to-basics’ approach since the new fees were announced. She added that clients would return to practices that had refused to ‘dumb down’ their approach in recent years.
Rachel Stow, managing director of north-west firm Thorneycrofts, is also optimistic despite the fees cut.
She said: ‘It’s exceptionally challenging but we’ve been busier than ever. We want to embrace change and have restructured. We’ll be getting two or three of our main solicitors to deal with nothing but catastrophic injury cases.’