What Lies Ahead for the Personal Injury Specialists? – September 2014

What Lies Ahead for the Personal Injury SpecialistsDavid Byrne – Marketing Partner at Scott Rees & Co Solicitors (and former MASS Merseyside/Wirral Region Coordinator)

Without question, I’ve never experienced anything like the past two years and how the introduction of LASPO and the Jackson Reforms reshaped an entire industry.

Looking ahead big questions remain; will the government ever prioritise the accident victim? Will insurers give up the pretence of a ‘Compensation culture’ and their obsession for profits and obstructing accident victim’s access to Justice? How will the claims portal cope with the proposed system of introducing checks on the claimant’s past claim history, which will create difficulties for those with claim histories to obtain representation?

There are, however, positive changes to look forward to. The Government has finally recognised the importance of data sharing and the discernible effect it will have on discouraging fraudulent claims.

There’s a definite consolidation taking place within PI, with many firms looking to either get big or get niche or, in some cases, both.

While RTA claims won’t disappear overnight, many firms are diversifying into other areas, most notably disease work.  Care is needed when venturing into other areas of PI. Mistakes made along the way will be extremely costly.

For firms considering diversifying into other areas of PI, continual training for their staff is essential. Lawyers have to become experts in these new areas to ensure benefit for the consumers as much as the law firm.

It’s advisable that you have buy-in from managers and fee earners in the new departments, headed up by Partners. Continual investment in your staff will bring great results. My firm is approved for the Lexcel Accreditation and the Investors in People Gold Standard.

Gone are the days when Partners simply had to be good lawyers. We now have to be able to generate work for the firm through marketing and have expertise in operations and case management systems to process the cases. An excellent service and journey has to be provided to the consumer.

Reduced costs and fix fees have been introduced and as such the implementation of slimlining processes, cost saving measures and a fixed marketing budget is essential.

Many firms fall foul of effectively riding on the bow-wave of the fees generated from pre-LASPO cases, acquiring post-LASPO work through marketing spend without considering the reduced income post cases will generate. These firms need to wake up to the danger and ask themselves whether it’s still affordable to pay pre-LASPO salaries when receiving £500 portal fees plus 25% of damages recovered.

Pressure to reduce 25% success fees is increasing. Consumers are shopping around and firms are being asked to price match. If the case has been acquired through marketing costs, ask yourself whether it’s commercially viable to take it on and accept a reduced success fee.

We live in the fast developing digital media world, where traditional marketing methods such as TV, radio and print advertising play second fiddle to social media, SEO and PPC.

Previously we had to chase and pay top price for work, whereas now firms should ensure they are getting value for money and no longer persist with poor work which isn’t cost effective.

I am confident that this profession is not in demise and hold great optimism about the future of personal injury and I would encourage firms that still specialise in PI to hold tight and continue to persevere.

Remember the referral fee ban was supposed to kill us off, the Jackson Reforms and LASPO the final nails in our coffins, but after all is said and done, the personal injury specialists remain standing, bruised and a little disorientated, but more importantly because of our resilience, access to justice remains alive and well.