Specialist group is gaining ground

THE ASSOCIATION of Personal Injury Lawyers has done its best to resist the temptation to gloat.

But the group is delighted at its success in breaking the deadlock between the Law Society and the Bar Council over conditional fee model terms of engagement for counsel.

That breakthrough, reported in last week's issue of The Lawyer, is one of a series of recent landmarks reached by the group which is just five years old.

Recently it signed up its 2,000th member. It is currently advertising for its own press and parliamentary liaison officer and on Friday week it holds its first residential conference.

The group's growing strength will add fuel to the current debate within the Law Society over its own relationship with specialist lawyers' groups.

The hiring of a full-time professional press and parliamentary officer, at a salary of between £23,000 and £25,000, is a particularly significant move. Most specialist groups rely on their administrators or individual members to co-ordinate press campaigns.

“Part of the debate about reform in the Law Society is whether specialist associations have the ability to absorb some of the work which the Law Society does,” Apil president Michael Napier said.

“We have our separate views but we can work together and there may be a case for saying that some groups can take on some of the Law Society's work.”

Andrew Dismore, of Russell Jones & Walker, is a founder member of Apil, the growth of which he said had been beyond his wildest expectations.

He said Apil had a particular advantage over the Law Society in the personal injury field because it represented plaintiffs while Chancery Lane had to speak for both sides.

Former Law Society president Charles Elly said: “It would be unfortunate if the profession was pulled apart, particularly for firms which offer a general service. But I don't think that that will happen.”

He added: “I do see that a dialogue is going to go on as to whether the Law Society continues to regulate and represent or whether specialist groups can take on much of the representative role in co-operation with the Law Society.”