Pre-litigation fees set at £4,000; law firms dismiss Claims Direct comparisons
A group of London law firms are attempting to convince businesses to access solicitors through a call centre for general commercial litigation advice. In return clients will receive a transparent fixed fee service for initial referrals. Edwin Coe, Penningtons and sole practitioner Tony Guise, as well as Littleton Chambers and Maitland Chambers, are piloting a unique call centre litigation service for businesses with claims of more than £50,000. The call centre, managed by insurance company LawSure Direct, will field initial enquiries. For £950, it will supply companies with a questionnaire to obtain preliminary case details, and then refer it to a relevant solicitor from a participating firm. For a further £3,050, the client will receive a face-to-face meeting with their solicitor, an opinion from counsel and advice on whether or not to go ahead with the claim. If the client then decides to proceed with the claim it will be litigation as usual, with traditional payment options negotiated individually with the solicitor. Tony Guise of Guise Solicitors said the system is nothing like that of collapsed claims 'factories' Claims Direct and TAG, because the firms are not paying LawSure Direct for cases. "There will be no payments made to the management company by the panel firms. We have taken great pains to make sure it isn't anything like Claims Direct or TAG," he said. The firms will pay LawSure Direct a nominal amount for operating the call centre and the insurer will pick up the benefit by underwriting after-the-event insurance premiums for clients. Guise said the scheme will be good for clients as, until proceedings are issued, they will know exactly the cost of the litigation. One senior City litigator, however, was sceptical. "Litigation is already very front-loaded under the Civil Procedure Rules. You could not use this system if you wanted urgent action from your lawyers," he said.