Beyond the Pale of Acceptable Human Behaviour – May 2014

Beyond the PaleRos Danson

Former MASS North East Regional Coordinator and Operations Director at Questus

I have recently been reading a book in which the author considers cannibalism and challenges the reader to define what is beyond the pale of acceptable human behaviour. This puts me in mind of the cannibal label recently given to the lawyers who are rushing in to sue their solicitor colleagues who may have under settled their clients’ PI claims. Is this really ‘beyond the pale’?

Many lawyers have not been shy in demonstrating their utter disgust at these ‘cannibal’ lawyers who are ready and waiting to pounce on their unsuspecting colleagues, many of whom are really struggling to deal with PI work profitably in the new era. Some think it is simply an inevitable consequence of firms having to cut corners, employ more junior staff and reduce time spent on cases because profit margins are becoming so tight. Others believe that this will see the removal of the ‘cowboys’ in the industry who for some time, have under settled claims in order to make a fast buck.

So who is right? Surely, it is wrong when a claimant does not receive the level of compensation he or she is entitled to? Surely, it is right that such a claimant has a right to seek recompense if his lawyer has not done a good job? Whilst we may feel uncomfortable that there may be colleagues out there ready to exploit the current situation, they are doing a job just like the rest of us. There will always be new opportunities to exploit and this is just one more opportunity. Professional negligence lawyers are nothing new in any event – all professionals know that if they do anything which may be considered negligent, they risk being sued. If we’re confident we’re doing a good job, what are we afraid of?

I for one am happy that these lawyers are emerging to help claimants who have been undercompensated. I am proud that within our profession, there are still innovative, bright lawyers out there who possess the business nouse to seize these sorts of opportunities. I am also encouraged that this new opportunity could potentially create new jobs for lawyers and support staff. I don’t think these lawyers are ‘beyond the pale’ – quite the opposite. I’m just sad that this particular new opportunity was ever allowed to arise in the first place.