Beachcrofts offers performance-fees

Beachcroft Wansbroughs is launching what it claims to be a ground-breaking offer to clients to tie fees to performance in fast-track dispute resolution.

The firm, which launches this week following the merger of Beachcroft Stanleys and Wansbroughs Willey Hargrave, says it will be the first firm to link fees to speed of settlement of insurance litigation in response to the Woolf reforms. Clients will agree fees at the outset, allowing them to decide whether to fight or settle. The firm will be penalised if the case overruns, so the onus is on the firm to reach a settlement as early as possible.

Robert Beale, Wansbroughs' head of insurance litigation, says: “We have two matrices – for traffic cases and others – setting out exactly what the fees will be depending on the stage at which the case is settled and the amount it's settled for. So we are penalised for not settling the case early.”

The firms have set up specialist fast-track units to deal with insurance litigation. They believe having teams devoted to fast-track and small claims work will achieve early settlement. Beale says: “The Woolf reforms are designed with the aim of speeding the litigation process up. By aligning fees to the speed of settlement we believe we will provide clients with the best service and the best value for money.”

The firms have also developed their own case management IT system to improve speed and efficiency.

Martin Bruffell, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers and insurance partner with Berrymans Lace Mawer, says all insurance firms are working on their responses to Woolf, but he sounds a note of warning. “I have no doubt that Beachcroft Wansbroughs have done their homework… but it's going to take a year or two before we see how much work is involved in a fast-track.”

“I hope the market will take time to look at how much work is involved, how much work is available and what quality standards they want.