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Shedding of previous conflicts provides opportunity to retain claimant work; new fee arrangements a boost
Kent firm Cripps Harries Hall has started taking instructions from claimants in professional indemnity cases following the loss of key client the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF). Cripps' professional indemnity group has also started working for St Paul, QBE and one other insurer since the breakup of SIF. The firm was among those to survive the cull which reduced the SIF panel from 22 to 14 firms last year. It is still working on run-off work for the fund, but the level of work has been steadily declining. As a SIF panel member, Cripps was previously conflicted from taking claimant instructions because the fund insured all solicitors. "The situation has changed now that there are different insurers with different philosophies," said Cripps head of professional indemnity Gavin Tyler. "Historically, we've been approached over the years to do claims against solicitors. While we were acting for SIF we had to refer that work on to other firms. We referred work to two or three others in the region. When the new system came into place, the opportunity to keep that kind of work came back to us." Cripps is now free to act for claimants, provided it does not also act for any of the insurers involved. Tyler said: "It's now part of our strategy [to act for claimants] because there's such a diverse marketplace. Not all lawyers who worked for SIF are acting for all of the insurers present in this market now. That frees us up to do claimant work where we have no relationship with the insurer. "We feel that it's an opportunity to use our expertise to develop other aspects of solicitor liability work. We feel we know a good claim when we see one." Fee arrangements with claimants also differ from those with insurers. "Claimant work provides scope for more varied remuneration arrangements, such as conditional fee arrangements," said Tyler. His team, comprising one other partner, three associates and two assistants, has only taken up around six cases for claimants since the breakup of SIF. "So far it's fairly small fry, but we've noticed increased activity," he said. "We're getting more and more calls now."