Law Society launches insurance to underpin conditional fees

LAWYERS are being warned of “expensive imitations” as the Law Society launches a package of products to underpin the radical no-win, no-fee system.

The society's conditional fees insurance scheme, described as “the key to a major new legal services package”, is one of several initiatives to help get the new system off the ground.

But Gerald Newman, the society's head of practice support, when launching Accident Line Protect – the Conditional Fees Insurance – warned: “There are a number of look-alike products around, but I would ask you to be aware of the expensive imitations.”

Newman told delegates at the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers conference there was only one scheme which was backed by the society.

As well as offering insurance against having to pay the other side's costs, the society is taking steps to make conditional fees successful.

Regional seminars for lawyers will be run in the spring to coincide with the probable launch date for the scheme. A practical guide is being written for lawyers and work continues on the model agreement. The society is also producing a leaflet to explain the system to clients.

David Hartley, executive in the society's professional policy team, said that conditional fees for personal injury cases were being used as a pilot.

“If it works it is likely to be opened up to a whole range of litigation. It is up to you to make it work,” he said.

He said counsel were demanding a fee for looking at the papers even if they decided against taking on a case. There was also the issue of who should bear the extra cost if the brief changed and the barrister refused to act at the same rate.

Legal and Insurance Services, based in Tonbridge Wells, is hoping to launch its own insurance scheme for clients taking cases on a no-win no-fee basis.