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The bad times of Claims Direct and TAG are still fresh in the memory, but as Keith Miles argues, PI lawyers are positive about what the future holds
Last September, The Lawyer 100 reported that Irwin Mitchell had posted “miraculous” profits of £460,000 per partner. While this may not rank with the greatest of miracles around this time of year, it was certainly noteworthy.
Although it is not solely a personal injury (PI) practice by any means, this work is very much at the forefront of what Irwin Mitchell is involved in. Indeed, it managed to maintain a certain PI profile throughout the dark days of Claims Direct and The Accident Group (TAG). There are distinct signs that other PI practices have come through this time leaner and more focused. They may also be – dare one say it? – a little less precious about marketing and image. A few years ago it would have been nigh on unthinkable for firms such as Leigh Day & Co and Pannone & Partners to join forces with a TV-advertised claims group called InjuryLawyers4U.
It would also have been fairly unusual a few years ago to have, nestling in the tabloid sports pages with the many ads for ‘Slips and Trips R U’ and ‘Shunts U Like’ (both fully registered names), a very slick advertisement for specialist practice Hugh James. Other long-established and respected PI practices, such as Stewarts, which has recently opened a Leeds office, are very positive about both the future of PI and their role within this area.
Conditional fee arrangements (CFAs), for example, are no longer seen as a beast to be tamed, but rather a small, furry creature that will bring you your pipe and slippers in the evening. I even attended a recent Action for Victims of Medical Accidents (AVMA)/ Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) soiree of claimant clinical negligence practitioners (or PI lawyers with attitude), and they were positively chirpy. Indeed, one practitioner – after 13 glasses of mulled wine – insisted that PI would become the new rock ’n’ roll. It was quite strong mulled wine, though.
It is not just the firms and their attitudes that have changed. Again, just before Christmas, Master of the Rolls Lord Phillips went on record as stating that the UK’s record on treating accident victims was “shameful”. He went on to highlight the importance of rehabilitation to such victims and the fact that many firms, such as Stewarts, take a much more proactive role in doing so. Lord Phillips made only a slight sideswipe at the percentage of monies that finds its way to the lawyers. A few years ago it is more than likely that this aspect would have taken up the whole speech.
In setting up the lawyer panel for InjuryLawyers4U, Andrew Twambley, Amelans managing partner, says: “We just looked at the solicitors we know who we’d be happy to take home to our mother’s house for tea.” PI lawyers, the good guys. PI lawyers, the slick professionals. And now: PI lawyers, making money and friends.
Keith Miles is a specialist in PI and clinical negligence recruitment at recruitment consultancy Graham Gill