Last week saw another blow in the profession's attempts to gain Joe Public's affection. The three firms on the now defunct Independent Insurance panel – Davies Arnold Cooper, Berrymans Lace Mawer and Davies Lavery – went back to 2,000 companies that held policies with the insurance company and asked them to put their hands in their collective pockets to find £2m worth of legal fees for work carried out before the liquidation.
Ouch. While perfectly fit and proper legally, you can imagine the colourful language erupting around the country as the policyholders who have already had to find new arrangements opened the letters. This sort of behaviour is not likely to boost the profession's public-affection rating up to that of nurses, or even rat-catchers.
As a good chunk of the fees is related to employers' liability cases, the companies involved will be able to claim the costs back through the Policyholders Protection Board (PPB), but in other cases there is no one else to turn to – not a great argument against the public perception that the lawyers never lose out.
Add to this situation the rumblings in the market about Herbert Smith's role in all of this and there's enough to keep wine bar conversations going for at least a couple of glasses. Herbert Smith has acted for the PPB since 1975, now the firm is acting for liquidators PricewaterhouseCoopers, because it was Independent's original corporate adviser. The firm sees no conflict in any of this and I am certainly not going to imply that there is anything wrong, but can you see how some policyholders might be a little bit bothered?
Finally, in one of those strange twists of fate that make life so interesting, Denton Wilde Sapte is investigating Herbert Smith's role in Independent's collapse, while Herbert Smith is investigating Dentons' role in the almost-collapse of Equitable Life.
Now again, there's nothing wrong with that, but Joe Public who had an insurance policy with Independent and a guaranteed annuity returns policy with Equitable Life might not agree. Ain't life strange?