After-the-event insurer in talks with banks

AFTER-the-event insurer Litigation Protection Ltd (LPL) is talking to two high street banks to set up premium-funding loans for solicitors as part of a new package of insurance products for conditional fees.

LPL intends to launch the package, Access to Justice 2000, on 1 July to coincide with the introduction of the first tranche of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine's legal aid reforms.

LPL says it is in talks with two high street banks and a commercial bank to provide a credit facility which would fund premiums, counsel's fees and disbursements.

If the case is lost, solicitors must pay back the premium costs and any other drawdown but LPL is planning to arrange a “stop loss” insurance to protect firms from losses of more than £10,000 per partner.

The company also plans to introduce procedures to monitor the success rate of individual firms to weed out those which persistently lose cases.

It is developing a risk assessment service accessible via the Internet for firms who qualify for the insurance cover.

The package, the brainchild of managing director Brian Raincock, will only be available to firms with more than five partners and they have to be assessed as credit-worthy. All three after-the-event insurers LPL, Abbey Legal Protection and Greystoke are vying with each other to be best placed to take advantage of Lord Irvine's plans to replace legal aid with conditional fees for personal injury work and extend the remit of conditional fees.

Earlier this month The Lawyer reported that Greystoke had joined forces with merchant bank Guinness Mahon to offer clients a loan facility to fund their Law Assist insurance premium, medical reports, expert witness fees and counsel fees.

Meanwhile, Abbey Legal Protection, which runs the Accident Line Protect scheme in conjunction with the Law Society, has indicated it is also considering making use of the Internet. Chairman James Innes said: “Anything which speeds up the transfer of information is to be welcomed.”

But Greystoke Legal Services technical director Bob Gordon was sceptical about the value of the Internet as “too much information” was required for risk assessment.