Happy New Year!
One of the last jobs I did before the Christmas break was to send off EAD's response to the Government’s discussion paper on fixed recoverable fees for most Personal Injury cases. Those cuts would result in cuts in charges as high as 60% and the inevitable closure of firms or decision to abandon this area of work –
We made the point that the discussion paper gave no hint as to the basis on which the cuts were calculated and appeared to be unrealistic and apparently based on rhetoric from insurance companies. The reply had to be rushed as the response time was due to expire on 4th January.
Thankfully, the last job of the year was to read the news that the plans had in fact been shelved. This followed legal action taken by APIL and MASS arguing that the proposals were unlawful. At the last moment before the break the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, who is not himself a lawyer, conceded the point.
Whilst this is good news for lawyers acting for ordinary people it is probably only a delay. The government seem determined to press on with its relentless attacks on the legal profession on behalf of the insurance industry but it is to be hoped that some sense will prevail when the plans come back.
So what else does 2013 have in store? I think that it will be a year of change beyond anything we have ever known. We will see in the impact of the almost total abolition of civil legal aid in April. That will certainly see a massive increase in the number of cases pursued without lawyers despite the concerns of the judiciary –
It will probably also result in an increase in the amount of free work done by lawyers.
2013 is also going to be the year when Alternative Business Structures come into their own –
These have been popularly known as TESCO law models as High Street names move into the Legal Services Market. But it will also see the growth in partnerships between traditional law firms and outside suppliers of work. Many firms have built their businesses on the basis of buying cases from Claims Management Companies. That model will end when referral fees are banned in April. This will open up a market for work and this will be a real opportunity for these new style businesses which are to combine legal expertise and commercial experience.
So it is certainly not going to be a quiet year.
Watch this space!