Firms specialising in insurance, specifically claims litigation work, do so at their own risk.
The sector is a volatile market. While the Woolf reforms have dictated that fees must be kept low, companies themselves have been consolidating, ensuring that firms slash prices to keep the work. Insurance companies are continuing to cut their panels and money rules the choice of lawyers in this field.
For this reason, businesses shy away from using beauty parades and instead employ stringent methods, such as detailed questionnaires, to decide their panels. Legal & General, Iron Trades and United Friendly are just some of the companies which employ this approach.
Insurance companies have also taken to auditing their law firms on a regular basis to ensure the service, and more importantly the rate, is the best. For example, Iron Trades recently announced that its firms would face a stringent investigation to ensure that rates for low cost, high volume work were kept down. There is also the threat, specifically from Axa, that claims litigation work will be brought wholly in-house to keep costs low.
However, the sector is one in which regional firms can comfortably compete. With the emphasis on low costs, insurers have made it clear that they are reluctant to pay City rates.
the lawyer 12 june 2000