Underwoods teams with uni for SA training

Personal injury (PI) firm Underwoods held talks last Friday (12 September) with Nottingham Law School on establishing a formal tie-up to train solicitors for its recently-launched South African operations (The Lawyer, 1 September).

Underwoods senior partner Kerry Underwood and Nottingham Law School professor John Peysner met last week to discuss plans to create an accredited PI qualification specifically to help ensure standards and appropriate levels of legal knowledge among the lawyers subcontracted to work on Underwoods’ low-value PI work in South Africa.

The Underwoods outsourcing initiative is the firm’s response to the new fixed-costs regime for PI work, which comes in to effect on 6 October.

“We need the solicitors we work with in South Africa to be pound-for-pound as good as the people we could use in the UK,” said Underwood. The new course, which could launch later this year, may be structured around a diploma in PI law. It is likely to be a combination of online distance learning and face-to-face instruction, featuring Underwood himself in South Africa.

Underwood is piloting his South African scheme through his company Law Abroad. He said the project, the first of its kind, has already generated approximately £5m in legal work. The Nottingham Law School project is also likely to produce revenue for the forward-thinking firm.

“The detail will have to be finalised if the plans go ahead,” said Underwood, “but it’s possible that the school would charge a fee and we’d get a commission.”

Under the new fixed-costs regime, which covers all road traffic accident costs-only cases, claimant solicitors would receive fixed recoverable costs of £800 plus 20 per cent of the damages up to £5,000, and 15 per cent of the damages between £5,000 and £10,000.