Monday, 26 November 2012

Your Prison Cell Awaits....


                                                                             


Occasionally, at the end of a criminal trial, when a prison sentence has been handed down, the Judge will defer the start of the sentence for a couple of weeks to allow the Defendant to get his personal  affairs in order. I remember that happening to a solicitors clerk in a practice not far from where I was brought up in the North West of England who along with others in the practice had been sentenced to a couple of years for 'Green Form' fraud. I recall thinking how awful that must be - being allowed to walk out of the court room to go home, knowing that you had a 2 year sentence waiting to start in 2 weeks time.

It's been a similar situation for RTA lawyers over the past however many months. They have known that a prison sentence awaits them on April 1 2013, but as it all still seemed a life time away, things carried on as normal. Even when it became certain that referral fees were going to be banned - bluster and bravado ( "oh it will be business as usual, ha ha.") More recently the laugh has become a nervous one and then on Monday 19th November, the laughter stopped altogether -the fixed fee under the Portal slashed from £1200.00 to £500.00 (unless the Law Society who are 'raising concerns' can weave some magic - ok, you can all start sniggering again).

Why there isn't even enough left in the pot to pay a dodgy referral fee!

As if that wasn't bad enough, those who suddenly thought that overnight they could become super EL/PL lawyers, woke up to find that that was being dragged into the whole sorry scheme too, albeit at slightly better rates (but not significant enough to get the cheque book out for a down payment on that new Porsche).

It's been interesting, hearing all the news on the grapevine about solicitors and CMC's who have supposedly found unique ways around the referral fee ban with opinions from Rumpole QC confirming that they have a cast iron scheme. Pray, do tell, so we can all have a good laugh. Goodness knows we need one. In any event could Counsel please advise which 'pot of gold' the cast iron 'referral fee by any other name' is going to come from?

I may be mad, but I still believe that this is a time of opportunity for some and by that I don't just mean for the big boys and girls. Firms will have to re-structure, no doubt about that. There will be casualties. CMC's who have nothing to offer other than buying in and selling on claims will disappear, go into PPI or become debt management companies. CMC's that are in reality old fashioned Credit Hire companies by any other name, will still be able to make a living from providing hire facilities (yes I know that there is the OFT thing hovering around, but let's deal with that as/if/when it comes around - we've got enough to deal with at the moment). Solicitors, cosy up to them and network with others. There is nothing wrong with you working in an informal relationship as long as you don't share fees and don't pay referral fees and maintain a professional approach, is there? The old fashioned 'good service' quality might come to the fore in terms of selling yourselves (not literally).

...and start marketing like you never have before - network - think outside the box. On the technical side of things there are legitimate ways to get matters out of the Portal on many claims. Be sharper than the opposition and competitors in the handling of your claims. Do you have a lot of claims that include credit hire charges as part of the Special Damages claim? Are you still allowing most of those claims to stay in the Portal? If so why?

So, PI solicitors, the future is difficult but for those prepared to roll their sleeves up, there is a future. RTA/PI lawyers have proved in the past they are a resilient lot. Now is the time to show that quality again.

If you need some help not just with marketing your firm but with advice on re-structuring and how to move forward in 2013 and beyond please feel free to email me at carl@carlwaring.com Unlike many legal marketing experts, I have the experience not only of 28 years specialising in RTA/PI work, but of having built up my own practice from scratch and turning it into a successful and thriving business. I know how difficult it is sometimes to see the wood from the trees when you are running a practice and I now have the benefit of having had the blinkers taken from me, having sold my practice some years ago.

That prison cell does not have to have your name on it.....


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Yawn Yawn. Jackson and all that...

I've been a little quiet recently in terms of tweeting and blogging on LASPO, Jackson and all that. To be honest I am a bit weary of it all...all the speculation and jaw jawing, of listening to possible ways of getting round the ban (not supposed to be looking at ways of doing that are we; thought we were just meant to comply?). Of course we all still await the definitive definition from the SRA as to what consitutes a 'referral fee'.

A formal consultation process conducted by the SRA started on the 23rd October and will end on the 18th December. There is to be an 'SRA Referrals Symposium' (to be held at the Royal Albert Hall?). Code changes are to be approved by the SRA Board on the 23rd January 2013, changes to the Regulatory Framework will be approved by the LSB mid February 2012, final version published 'early March 2013' and Implementation of the ban - April 2013.

Reading about the Consultation on the SRA website is making my contact lensed eyes water, so you can check it out for yourselves at www.sra.org.uk/sra/consultations/referral-fees-2012.page if you like. It might make your eyes water too.

I hear it being said by many, and indeed to avoid being accused of hypocrisy, I have also sounded off to this effect previously, 'how can we possibly plan for the future when nothing is written in stone?'. I still believe that to be true for instance in the case, for example of what the fixed fee under the RTA portal will come down to  (I believe that at the recent MASS conference many delegates were saying that they believed that the fee will not come down to the oft quoted figure of £400, but is more likely to be fixed at double that).

However, the one thing that is certain is that referral fees will be banned, that is that LASPO 2012 as implemented in April 2013 will prohibit the 'payment and receipt of referral fees in personal injury cases'. I do not see that the SRA is going to provide much more in the way of a deeper definition. Indeed it has already said that it does not intend to provide a blue print for firms. It will rely on self-regulation to a great extent and to my mind it will boil down to this - at the moment Mr/Mrs/Ms RTA/PI Solicitor you receive quite a bit/some/an awful lot of your work by paying a referral fee to a CMC/Insurance broker or to some other organisation to receive a personal injury claim - ie you pay £X for a PI or you pay £XXX to receive 20 claims a month or whatever. After the first of April that will not be allowed and you can dress it up in fancy ways, but it will still be banned, and you know that it will be banned, so don't do it. If you do do it, well first of all, remember that you are under a duty to self report breaches of the SRA Code of Conduct. If you don't report yourselves, you might get away with it, or we might catch you - that is a risk that you may or may not wish to take. However you know the Rules and so if you do decide to be naughty, well you will be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your days (or until the ban is relaxed/collapses in farcical fashion or is otherwise done away with - all of which are possible, but not certain). You can wave leading Counsels opinion on some brilliant new scheme that you have come up with as a way of getting round the ban, at us, but ultimately if it involves making a payment for a PI claim, it is banned. End of.

So there you have it. What you can do is go out and market properly and attract clients that way, but you'd better get going seriously if you haven't started already - and don't expect those 100 guaranteed new cases per month that you are getting at the moment by paying XYZ CMC Ltd £75,000 a month - no, no, no, that is not going to happen, certainly not in the near term (or to be honest in the long term). Alternatively you can form an ABS - but that is a separate issue altogether and provides enough material for 20 more blogs.

Anyway, I have just heard the theme tune to 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' chiming up, so time to go and watch Nadine Dorries getting bitten by some more rats or submerged in a bath of maggots. Maybe ITV could try an alternative theme "I'm a PI Claimant Solicitor - Get Me Out of Here." At £40,000's worth of appearance money - now, there's a thought. That would buy an awful lot of claims (until 1st April 2013)!

As ever all of these off the wall views are my own in their entirety.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Musings of a Grumpy Old Git

I'm feeling grumpy today. I have been in a good mood all day so not quite sure what has turned me sour. Ok well actually I do. Having been  beavering away all day, I decided to have a break late afternoon and turned to the excellent Legal Futures website. Apparently there has been some report or other carried out by the delightfully named 'Espirito Santo Investment Bank' which says (I haven't read the report - I can rely on Neil Rose and his team to tell me all I need to know);


  • Numerous 'external investors' will appear on the scene once the 'floodgates of change' hit the PI market next year
  • There will be just five or six claimant firms likely to dominate
  • Lots of insurers fancy becoming ABS's (I'll bet they do!)
  • Apparently PI Legal services will become - wait for this - you'll enjoy this piece of plain English - 'part of a more integrated supply chain..Service providers will increasingly include multi disciplinary tie-ups which offer bundled services. Size will be critical'. Really - bigger is better and all that?
  • Most CMC's will disappear - if they are merely ticket touts ie selling on PI claims for more than they paid for them,then good. 
  • Their (the CMC's) cases will be picked up by solicitors who have the funds (because they aren't paying referral fees anymore) and the time (because they've no work to do) and they will have suddenly picked up the skills (that they haven't had for all those years they were paying referral fees) and the inclination to go out and market for themselves and pick up lots of new PI cases. That'll be alright then - except wait - I thought the 'five or six' 'size is critical' outfits were going to hoover up all the new claims - so there aren't actually going to be any for the small to medium sized firms after all? Ah, here we go...
  • As a result of the referral fee ban, claimant firms will either look to expand...or ...erm... they won't - in which latter case they will exit the market..
I started to get bored after that. Apparently there are going to be a lot more mergers and basically if you don't merge or form an ABS or get loads of funds invested in your firm to expand then you might as well go and do some conveyancing or become a shipping lawyer or something of that nature. Oh and if you do form an ABS, merge or take on 100 new staff and act the big law firm...don't forget that the only thing that has been decided is that referral fees for PI work are banned (but not yet properly defined blah blah). So you might in fact be spending a lot of money on ABS, merger, expansion and come April you may well find that you can't make RTA/PI pay!


Thursday, 4 October 2012

The SRA and The Hot Potato

                                                                                 

I went to a talk given by a chap from the SRA last week about the ban on Referral Fees in Personal Injury cases and how this will be policed by the SRA in respect of solicitors (the Claims Management Regulator will look after CMC's, I believe). I hoped to glean some nuggets about what will and what won't be allowed. I came away scratching my head, it has to be said. In essence I knew nothing more when I came away from the talk, than when I went in.

I'm not having a go at the SRA man personally. As I have argued before, the SRA have been given a real hot potato to deal with here. An organisation that is already stretched in terms of work and resources now finds itself landed with the job that no-one wanted to do and already finite resources having to stretch even further in order to deal with it all. Add to that that the ban will come into force on the 1st April 2013 and with a formal 12 week consultation period yet to get under way following the responses to a recent discussion paper on the ban, and we will be left with a pitifully short period of time for all this to be in place for the due date.

As the SRA are not in favour of 'rules' as such then the mandatory outcomes will be amended with a few of those 'illustrative indicative behaviours' added and that will be it.

As the SRA has finite resources at it's disposal it seems certain that those firms which presently rely heavily on paying referral fees for work, will be closely looked at to see how they intend to move forward post April 2013.

Perhaps the SRA are being quite cute - cuter than we are perhaps giving them credit for. They know that RTA/PI lawyers are pretty wily characters, who given a rule will find a legitimate way of circumventing that rule. If the solicitor has no rule to 'get round' then he/she is left with taking a chance should they decide to try paying a 'referral fee' that is not a 'referral fee' - and being left with the prospect of being made an example of by the SRA, should it transpire that the 'referral fee' that was not intended to be a 'referral fee' ends up being one after all!

Ok, I hope that that clears everything up!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

What Legal Marketers and Solicitors Firms Could Learn From a Good Cricket Coach and His Talented Pupil

Yesterday I took my 14 year old son Ben up to Leicestershire County Cricket Club to be coached by a former South African test cricketer. My lad is pretty useful himself already, playing at county level for his age group and above and playing a high standard of club cricket. So the raw materials are already there for him to potentially become a very successful cricketer.

Watching this top quality coach at work for just about an hour, was a revelation. First of all he watched my son bowl for about five minutes without saying anything. He was just assessing his client/customer going about his business.He told me that that was all that he was going to do for starters and for those five minutes he didn't say a word.

Then he did have a word with Ben. He told him that he liked what he saw - that my son had a good bowling action and that the basics were all there. What he said was needed, was to work on the final product ie the quality of the ball being delivered to the batsman.

He then 'suggested' that my son might like to practice bowling the ball using a slightly different grip to the one he was currently using. He did not say that what he was presently doing was wrong - just to try the suggested method and see how he felt after trying it out a few times. After a while my son was bowling using the new method and delivering a quality ball time and again. The coach suggested another method to add to his repertoire as well and soon Ben was bowling that delivery as suggested.

He then talked to Ben. He told him that he the coach was not going to send Ben away a wholly improved player after the session - that this was a long term project and that he would have to go away with a few new ideas, try them repeatedly and often and see which worked best for him and to keep practising those that he felt comfortable with. He also spent some time talking to him about how to bowl to batsmen who were intent on handling his bowling in different ways - some batsmen would be intent on just blocking him out, so a certain approach was needed to tempt them into hitting out at him to see if the batsman would make an error and get out. Some batmen would be intent on trying to put him off by attacking his bowling - again a different approach and a cool head would be needed with this type of player.

He finished off by telling Ben that what was needed above all was for him to practice, practice and practice - that he had all the right ingredients and by trying a few new ideas and with lots of practice he would achieve his goal of playing cricket at a higher and higher level (England Test team and a nice tour to Australia for Mum and Dad would go down well son!!)

What has this got to do with legal marketing, you might well ask?

Well it occurred to me that the approach that the coach adopted with my son in this session was precisely what a good legal marketing consultant should be adopting with a new client.

First of all he observed Ben bowling without making any comment. He did not dive straight in and tell Ben what he should be doing without first seeing how he went about his business of bowling in the first place.
Equally applicable to legal marketing, I would suggest. A good marketing consultant will not want to make suggestions that the client should try this or that marketing method without first observing how the client goes about his business on a day to day basis for a while initially. It might be that as with Ben, all the raw ingredients are there in the first place and that there is a really good base there from which to add some new ideas to ultimately achieve really good results. Having added those new ideas and methods to the repertoire, then what is needed is to keep on working at those good practices to achieve sustainable long term results, which in the legal example is not to bag loads of wickets, but to bag loads of new clients.

Then the coach went on to tell Ben that after the coaching session was finished yesterday he was not going to go away and suddenly become a superstar overnight - he would have to go away, practice the new methods, find out which worked best for him and assimilate them gradually into his game by constantly practising.

Equally once a good legal marketing consultant has completed the brief that he has been contracted to deliver to a firm of lawyers, it doesn't mean that a magic wand has been waved, resulting in floods of new clients ever more without the firm carrying on practising the new marketing methods that they have been shown by the consultant. First of all they need to find out which methods work for them and then to carry on working on putting those methods into practice on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, to ensure that long term results are achieved. Of course just as Ben would benefit from further follow up sessions with the coach, equally the solicitors firm could well benefit from some follow up work from the legal marketing consultant.

When the coach suggested that different approaches might be needed in bowling to different types of batsmen, it reminded me that firms of solicitors need to be flexible in their approach to dealing with and marketing to different types of potential clients. Social Media Marketing might play a big part in attracting a certain potential client base, but have little or no part to play with another where direct marketing might be necessary  For instance I have noticed that many reasonably sized insurance brokers have little or no web presence, let alone have Twitter or Facebook pages - perhaps if brokers are your  potential client target market then a direct campaign using email or direct snail mail marketing might be a better option.

Finally just as the coach told Ben that he needed to 'practice, practice and practice' so too does the law firm - just keep on doing what has been suggested over and over again - try different methods - as long as the product is sound. The maxim 'do the right things and the right things will happen' always seems to work in the long run.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Referral Fee Ban Part II

When I set up my own RTA/PI solicitors practice back in 1994 there were no such things as referral fees. To be honest I am probably wearing 'rose tinted' spectacles a little in saying that - I am sure they did exist but if they did, they were pretty much underground and passed by way of brown paper envelopes.

I was indeed fortunate to set up the practice at a time when it was quite a simple task - PI Insurance was relatively easy to come by for Sole Practitioners and with a rented office, a couple of desks and chairs, a computer, a printer, and some stationery, away I went (with no little help from Mrs Spin King I must add). No such thing as COLP's and COFA's or indeed ABS's -the only initials that you needed to know were IKEA - so that you could go and buy a nice bit of Scandianvian office furniture!

What was also needed was a bit of confidence to walk into insurance brokers, legal expense companies and local car body repairers and persuade them to refer to the new firm their customers in the event of their suffering a non fault accident - and then, (drum roll) the main ingredient from then on was 'To Provide a Top Class Service'!

Ah, can we remember those days when referrers wanted nothing more from a PI solicitor than for them to provide a good service to their clients, which in turn would result in a satisfied customer for the referrer and the likelihood or repeat business and further business from recommendations? Isn't that just good business practice and how businesses are meant to become successful?

As our good name grew, so did our case load. Happy days. Then referral fees started to surface. I am not sure whether this was solicitor led or referrer led to be honest. I do recall that certain solicitors practices seemed to be at the forefront of fee paying - usually wrapped up as some kind of marketing fee, for it was to be a few years before referral fees were legitimised. Finally they were officially recognised and the 'claims industry' went into overdrive. There have been some horrible excesses - with huge amounts of cash changing hands and both solicitors and claims management companies trying to outbid their rivals - all simply for the passing on of a PI, with no other service included, other than that of farming claims.

So, and regular readers of this blog might be surprised to read this, I am a supporter of the referral fee ban. Indeed I would have preferred that the original plans to criminalise the passing of referral fees for PI's had been pursued. Properly done that should have seen an end to the passing of money for the referral of claims. If all the governments efforts had been focused on passing well drafted legislation, with proper enforcement to back it up, that would have gone a long way to seeing an end to the practice and would have obviated the need for much of the further reform proposed, which in turn would have maintained a balance between genuine claimants with claims to pursue and the insurers on the other side. The decent claims management companies who have other services to provide, such as hire and repair, would have had to re-adjust but with proper planning would have survived and indeed prospered, and for solicitors they would have had to learn how to market themselves, as the market opened up with the demise of many of those who simply acted as PI middle men.

However, instead the legislature have opted against criminalisation and as stated in my last blog post they have passed the policing duties over to the SRA who have now been tasked with coming up with a strategy for ensuring that the ban is enforced. We have yet to see how well that policing is enforced. I do fear that there are those claims companies and solicitors who will already be thinking of ways around the ban, rather than accepting it and looking to change their models. It is, though, to be hoped that it is rigorously enforced and that those who flout the law and are caught out, are severely dealt with. Then, there is just a possibility  that there will be a return to the concept of those  that provide the best service prospering in a difficult market, rather than those that pay the most for claims or that offer cash or other incentives to claimants, doing so.





Monday, 13 August 2012

The Referral Fee Ban & The SRA - The Reluctant Police Force

An article in the Law Society Gazette today by John Hyde "SRA Ponders Policing of Referral Fee Ban" http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/sra-ponders-policing-referral-fee-ban confirms to me that the SRA have been landed with the role of an unwilling police force to deal with the ban which is to come into effect in just over 7 months.

According to Hyde, the Authority "will set out within weeks how it intends to police the forthcoming ban on referral fees." 'Within weeks' - really? Sorry, for some reason 'My SRA' keeps coming to mind. What a wonderfully thought out and executed concept that was. Perhaps first the SRA will have to have a consultation period of 3 months to consider what is meant by a 'few weeks'. Then after that it might come to the conclusion that 'a few weeks' actually means about 12 months - and even then give or take another 12 months either way - well not either way - just one way. So make that 2 years. Perhaps then we should add in some fancy online software to help with the policing. Add 12 months for that to be implemented and then - oops - it's crashed.

After that, according to the article, the Authority will 'draw up a formal policy position in advance of a 12 week consultation starting this autumn.' '12 weeks'? Don't even let me start going there. Perhaps the idea is to just send us all mad. I can see it now - the ambulances collecting us all to be dragged off screaming and shouting  to the 'Home for Bewildered Claimant Solicitors and CMC Proprietors' (with segregated wards to ensure that no referral fees can be passed on in the exercise yard).

I jest merely - well partly.

The SRA has been given the legal equivalent of a 'hospital pass' in rugby or football. The only alternative was for the 'Ministry of Silly Claims' to become involved and of course the government just wants to lay down the law, in a fashion. It doesn't want to have the job of enforcing it's hotchpot of legislation - and who can blame it?

Anyway once this has all been smoothly implemented - whatever is being implemented, we then only have to wait on the announcement on the Small Claims Track Limit for Personal Injury, the slashing of portal fees, etc, etc. Not to worry - we've got all of 7 and a bit months for this to get sorted.

Anyway at the end of the tunnel there is light - that pot of gold called the "ABS." Why some 15 have been authorised, don't you know - or is it 20? I really don't know. To be honest I've lost the will. Apparently there is now something called the "ABS rush." Now that does sound interesting. Is it a form of legal high? Better be on the safe side. "Pass the port Miss Moneypenny - and make mine a double."

Friday, 6 July 2012

Our Man From 'An Actuary Group'


The BBC reported yesterday across it's news channels that an increasing number of people involved in car accidents are making personal injury claims. These findings were from a report from the actuarial profession, which apparently suggests that despite an 11% fall in crashes in 2011, claims rose by 18%.The BBC's report, as such reports invariably tend to, ended with the warning that motorists insurance premiums were likely to rise as a result.
The report on BBC's Five Live radio programme Morning Reports featured an interview with a representative from 'an actuary group' who trotted out the usual insurer line which included the phrases 'accident management companies, ambulance chasers, referral fees, due to an increase in claims management companies activities etc.' The Beeb's own reporter helped him along, "So all these No Win - No Fee advertising campaigns seems to be working then?" No wonder the man from 'an actuary group' chuckled at this, presumably thinking 'who needs to be lobbying parliament when the Beeb reporters do our job for us?'
Bravo Beeb! - cutting edge, unbiased reporting about a topic which doesn't get much coverage! 
The same afternoon, I had a visit from an old client of mine from the days when I had my legal practice. His daughter had had an accident at work some 18 months ago whilst doing some heavy lifting at work. She had damaged her back and shoulder so badly that she was still having severe problems and having to take time off work for medical appointments and for other reasons related to the injury. When my former client described how the accident happened, it  quickly became apparent that the lady had a very good case against her employers. However until now she had resisted the idea of making a claim against her employers, but those same employers, for whom she still works, have  refused to pay her for time off work, even though all of these absences have been directly related to the injury that she sustained at work. Therefore due to their intransigence and generally hostile attitude about the whole affair, she has decided to make a claim. I was able to refer the lady to a firm of solicitors specialising in personal injury claims (please note  - no referral fee involved - how about a story about that Beeb?).
Now I realise that I have focused on two separate types of PI claims here - PI claims arising out of RTA's and one arising out of an accident at work. I can't help though making a comparison here. On the one hand we have a report which let's face it, yet again almost spits out the words 'personal injury claims' with contempt, or as the man from 'an actuary group' referred to them 'bodily injury claims' (sounds even more disparaging) - with the unsaid phrase hovering over the report - 'spurious bodily injury/personal injury claims.'
On the other hand we have a lady who has suffered a 'bodily injury claim' as a result of the negligence of her employers, and who has shied away from making a legitimate claim against her employers (and in effect their insurers) until she became riled enough to do so due to  her employers' intransigence.
At the end of the day, as far as insurers are concerned, a PI claim is a PI claim however it arises. The way that the reform tide is flowing for insurers they will not be satisfied until it will be financially unviable for claimants to pursue all but fairly catastrophic bodily injury claims via a firm of solicitors, leaving them at the goodwill of the insurers in deciding how much if any compensation they should receive following an accident - and that is even if potential claimants such as my lady in question feel bold enough to put in a claim in person against hostile employers, in the first place.


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Sword of Damocles

In recent posts I have been rather critical of RTA/PI solicitors in general for what I have seen as a "burying the heads in the sand" approach to the forthcoming changes in their industry, changes which if fully implemented as proposed by the government/insurance lobby will potentially prove fatal to the arm of law that I grew up with in the legal profession from as long ago as 1984.

I have recently met up with some friends and former colleagues who are running their own PI practices in different parts of their country and have spent many hours over the past few weeks discussing life at the coal face. I was struck by their stoicism, phlegmatism and realism. The overall message that I received was that they were carrying on as normal because, as one solicitor said to me, "What else can we do? Until we are told in definitive terms what the new landscape will look like and when that landscape will be repainted, how can we make firm decisions to do anything other than what we are doing?"

What they are doing is continuing to work very hard indeed to run their firms, to provide a good service to their clients, to try and maintain a steady influx of work,  to provide employment and a decent working environment for their employees, whilst at the same time ensuring that they are filtering out any potential fraudulent claims and coping with ever increasing and burdensome regulation and red tape. They are too busy getting on with running their businesses to spend time worrying about proposed future changes to their industry that have been either so long in the "proposal" stages or in other cases have just been suddenly plucked out of thin air, with still no definitive shape or form to them and still with no dates in sight as to when these proposals will emerge from their embryonic state, other than to hear that the government expects to implement them by April 2013. It is like watching an egg slowly starting to hatch and not knowing what being will eventually emerge from it.


As one Senior Partner put it to me; "We must be the only industry with other people dictating to us how to run our businesses (including what price to sell our services for) and having the sword of Damocles hovering constantly overhead!"

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

In The Court of The King

It is the year of 2014 in a far off land. A junior prince has been elevated to the post of 'King of the Realm' by the all powerful 'Council of Insurance Lords' in recognition of his great work in defeating once and for all, the Claimant Peasant’s Revolt that had been plaguing the land for 25 years or more.

Setting: The King’s Palace   

                                                                          

The King is reclining on a settee watching the Jeremy Kyle programme on TV, whilst being fed grapes by two of his servants.

A courtier enters the room.

Courtier: “Sire, the Chief Insurer is here to see you.”

King: “About time too, he was supposed to be here an hour ago. Send him in.”

The courtier leaves the room and after a few moments, re-enters, followed by a plump man with a heavy sun tan.

Courtier: “Sire, the Chief Insurer.”

The Chief Insurer walks over to the King, and thinks about bowing, but decides against it.

Chief Insurer: “I apologise for my tardiness Sire, but I was waylaid by claimant beggars outside the Palace, who pulled at my fine clothes and tried to sell me personal injury claims.”

King: “But I thought I banned referral fees last year?”

Chief Insurer: (muttering) “WE banned referral fees!”

King: “What was that you said?”

Chief Insurer: “Oh nothing Sire, I was merely clearing my throat. Yes, Sire. We, I’m sorry, you did ban referral fees and for that, I and my fellow Insurance Lords are most grateful, but there are a minority of peasants who flout the law and roam the land trying to sell claims.”

King: “You told me that the claimant rebellion had been crushed and in any case, as we reduced solicitors fixed fees under the portal to £50 and raised the small claims track limit for PI’s to £100,000, there seems no point in the peasants trying to sell claims anyway.”

Chief Insurer: “Sire the rebellion has been crushed, but there remain a few renegades to be rounded up, and  some of these older claimant peasants they have been around for so long that they know of no other means of making a living.”

King: “No matter, now pray tell me, what is the news of the reduction in the cost of motorists premiums since I got rid of the claimant peasants and their fraudulent claims?”

Chief Insurer: “Sire?”

King: “The reduction in motorists insurance premiums! That is what you promised me would happen once I had won the war against the claimant peasants. You sold me the idea that if claimant peasants no longer blighted this land with their fraudulent claims and referral fees, that that would mean that the cost of insuring a motor vehicle for the average peasant, I mean motorist, would fall significantly due to the costs savings that would be made.”

Chief Insurer: (fidgets with the collar of his rather tight shirt) “Yes Sire, we do hope to achieve that..eventually. “

King: (Loudly)” Eventually! What do you mean eventually? What HAS been the saving?”

Chief Insurer:  (Fidgets with collar even more) “Well Sire, to date there has not actually been any saving.... (Gulps) in fact premiums have risen by 50% over the past 12 months.”

King:  (Roars) WHAT?

Chief Insurer: (Beads of perspiration now trickling down face) "Well Sire, you see we have had to pay heavy bonuses to the Insurance Lords, as a reward for their efforts in.... assisting you in defeating the claimants and ...and...we have of course had to reward the insurance peasants for all their hard work."

King: (Enraged) "Bonuses! I defeated the claimants single handed without any assistance from the Insurance Lords and as for the insurer peasant workers, you always told me that the majority of them were a useless, inefficient bunch!"

Chief Insurer: " Indeed Sire, the insurer peasant workers I did refer to in such terms, but they threatened that unless they were rewarded with some of the bounty - I mean savings in costs - that they would work to rule and instead of taking six weeks to deal with the post, they would take twelve.. .. and in addition Sire, there is another problem.."

King: (By now purple of face) “What other problem?”

Chief Insurer: “Well Sire, the remaining claimant peasants have found a new fraud to perpetrate. They have started driving their uninsured vehicles into the houses of friends who are then making claims on their buildings and contents insurance to have their houses refurbished and fitted with Surround Sound, 3D TV’s, new I-Pads, leather suites and so on and so you see those insurance premiums are now increasing and thus there are no savings, as yet, to pass onto the general peasants - I’m sorry- I mean policy holders..”

King: "I’ve heard enough. Guards have him removed. Chief Insurer I sentence you to be hanged from the RTA Portal. Take him away.”

Guards take away the Chief Insurer who is heard shouting, “but what about my severance pay” as he is dragged off down the corridor.

King:  “Courtier, fetch me the leader of the renegade claimant peasants. I think he and I need to talk...”

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Heads, Sand, Ostriches and all that....


                                                                         

A short article by John Hyde in the Law Society Gazette last week Prepare for 50% fee cuts, Says 'end of lawyers' professor produced the expected wide range of opinion on the predictions of Professor Robert Susskind. In the article Hyde outlines how Susskind, in an address to the Law Society Management Conference, warned that the economic climate will force clients to seek out firms that embrace the technological advances available in the legal profession  to enable them to reduce their legal costs. Susskind argued that bosses of both small and large companies will seek to reduce their legal spend by 50% over the next five years, as they look for ways of gaining 'more for less' through new pricing structures. Susskind went on to argue that there would be casualties amongst smaller firms and sole practitioners unless they are prepared to embrace new technologies, but for those prepared to embrace the new models, opportunities abound.

So no surprise that the first three comments added by readers in the comments section at the end of the article, covered all bases of opinion about Susskind's predictions. One said he was wrong, one said he was right and one said that some predictions would come true whilst others would not!

There were though other contributors whose comments really struck a chord.  One contributor suggested that whilst lawyers are very quick to pick up on new principles, they tended to want to use them straight away and where non technical skills were concerned, they were unlikely to be put into practice unless there was a real mindset that the firm was committed to change. Another suggested that those that really needed to adopt Susskind's suggestions probably would not until it was too late hoping perhaps that if they were of a certain age, they could get through to retirement without having to change their working practices.

In the area that I practised in throughout my career (claimant PI derived mainly from RTA) huge swathes of changes are about to land upon the profession. Yet I see a great deal of ostrich like behaviour - whole banks of paralegals covering several or more office floors, secretarial staff scurrying around all over the place, a limited use of technology ('we've got a website and PC's - what more do we need?') and partners uttering; 'Don't panic Captain Mainwaring' to anyone who dares question; 'What will happen come April 2013?'

I am sure that I do many firms a disservice, but similarly across a wider spectrum of firms other than the RTA/PI brigade, there seems to be the mentality that 'everything will be all right', that the solicitor is still, along with the mayor, the accountant, the doctor, and the bank manager (where are THEY now?), the respected pillar of every towns community and therefore for that reason the work will still flow and the public and business community will still pay THOSE fees.

I find myself with the good professor on this one. Fixed fee structures will become increasingly attractive and even the norm. Firms like the hugely innovative Riverview Law, based on the Wirral, are leading the way. Technology is available to help all firms achieve the aim of lowering fees - for small to medium firms as well as the big boys and girls. Putting together a carefully structured plan to introduce the right technology and the accompanying cost of the initial outlay, should not put off implementing what are likely to prove life saving changes.

I am similarly dismayed by how relatively few firms have a credible online presence or use social media as a major part of their marketing strategy. For smaller firms in particular this is a low cost means of getting themselves out to the public. Perhaps it is because many of them see Social Media as nothing but a talking shop for teenagers or a place for celebrities to stroke their egos - certainly not a place for any respectable member of the legal profession to be seen. Wake up people. I was recently back in my home town in the north for the funeral of my aunt and got into discussion with my cousin, whom I had not seen for many years. He has been a self employed electrician for many years and when I asked him how business was, he told me that it was steady, but that whilst he got a good deal of repeat business from the older generation, new business from the younger generation was pretty much non existent. When I went on to ask him if he had an online presence; website, Social Media etc, he confirmed what I had thought - that he hadn't. Nothing at all.

My work involves many hours of trawling through cyberspace looking at solicitors websites or in many cases seeking them out without success. Some that do have them, well, might as well have not bothered. There are some truly awful ones out there - in many cases, they probably would be better off not bothering at all.  As for Social Media or blogging - erm, what's that?

There are those too, who know in their heart of hearts that Social Media is the way forward. So they set up Facebook and Twitter pages and even a blog too. They make a couple of posts and then... nothing. The surge of enthusiasm that led them to set everything up, wanes as the realisation dawns that this is something that needs to be worked on on a regular basis. Other, 'more important' matters take over and hence there are endless pages on Twitter or Facebook that have not been used since 2010. What was that that Susskind said about countering the mindset that 'we think we can take on a new discipline over a weekend'?

I know only too well that running a small or medium sized practice is more than a full time occupation. Getting a meaningful days work done amongst all the other distractions can be difficult enough without thinking about marketing the practice or looking at ways that technology can help on an administrative level. I also know from experience, that for partners and  senior members of staff, delegating to others within the firm can  be a huge psychological barrier to overcome, let alone delegating to an outside agency. There is though help at hand. I am not the only former practitioner who now plies his trade in assisting firms in marketing or advising on the new technology available on an administrative level. There are those of us, who have been in those shoes, but who have now got the advantage of having that huge weight of running a legal practice removed from their shoulders and from whom the dark glasses have been removed..and as the advert says 'The future is bright, the future is....' but only to those who make up their minds that it will be and do something about it!





Thursday, 17 May 2012

Roberto Mancini Anyone?

I didn't really set up this blog as a blatant sales website, but as will by now be clear from this site, that as well as being a solicitor/legal marketer (or marketeer : still not sure which is the proper title), a seller of used and rare books and of cricket equipment, I am also an avid Manchester City supporter - the latter was not intended to creep into this blog, but having been mostly afflicted with this condition for over 40 odd years it is something to no longer hide under the proverbial bushel (not that I ever have in all honesty).

Some time ago, I bought the domain name www.robertomancini.co.uk . I'm not quite sure why nor have I decided how to use it, or now even whether I have the time to set something up on it. The great man himself has the .com variation and it has even crossed my mind whether to offer it to him if he wanted it. However alternatively if there are any good souls reading this who might find it an interesting proposition to take on, I would be more than happy to consider selling the domain name to a good home!

My contact details can be found on the blog.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Why I Had to Stop Running Away from Myself



                                                                            




I have a little book that I read every night. It is 'Night Light - A Book of Nighttime Meditations' by Amy E Dean. At the end of a usually hectic day, it just helps to centre me before putting my head down. There is a thought or meditation for each day of the year. So last night on May 15th it started with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson ;

We owe to our first journeys the discovery that place is nothing. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern Fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical fact that I fled from.


I wonder how many of us have done a 'geographical' at some point in our lives? I know that I have. Many years ago, over twenty in fact, I asked my senior partner if I could take a nine month sabbatical to travel round the world. The blessing that I got from him surprised me - but then again he was a maverick and probably wished that he could have done the same.


So I planned my trip and set off. I did want to see the world, but with the benefit of hindsight, I now realise that I was doing a 'geographical'. I was not comfortable in my own skin. Yes, I was doing well in my career - I was a reasonably successful solicitor, a partner in an up and coming practice, but I didn't really like myself too much. I drank too much, I was full of ego and although I liked to think of myself as 'nice old Carl' I didn't really treat people the way that I expected them to treat me. I was overly sensitive, selfish and yet a people pleaser at the same time.


So instead of looking inwards, I looked outwards - a spell away from where I lived and worked, a spell away from those who surrounded me in the town that I lived in and from those with whom I worked, would sort everything out. Of course, it didn't work. I did have an enjoyable time on many levels, but I came back the same me and before long, the same feelings of irritability, restlessness and discontent were upon me again.


What I didn't realise then, and what it was to take me a good deal longer to realise, was that I needed to change from within. I needed to start to change MY behaviours. I could not change other people, so why waste time trying to do so - besides who am I to even try and change someone else. No I had to stop running away and deal with the reasons why I wanted to run in the first place.


Once I started to do that and realise that I was merely a player in this great play of life and was not the director, things started to get better. To this day, and every day, I have to work on a daily basis to make myself more likeable to me, because if I don't like myself (and there is a difference between liking myself and being obsessed with myself) then how can I expect anyone else to think that I am an 'ok' person. I have to be less selfish and to think of others. Sometimes that just means listening to others and seeing that they have a view too! Often, it can be something as simple as making my wife a cup of tea or helping someone that I can see is struggling carrying their shopping. Likewise if I start to get angry or resentful towards someone because of something that they have said or done, I have to look at my part in the situation - besides whilst I am being resentful to someone else, they are just merrily getting on with their life. It's only me that gets hurt. If I have a problem, I have to work through it - discussing it with someone doesn't half help, instead of keeping it in my head alone. I have had to learn, and this has been hard, that I usually grow as a person far more from working my way through a problem or something that frightens me, and coming out the other side, than I do from some great thing that happens to me. Anyone can enjoy the good times.


The best thing that I have learned is that the world is perfect - it is just people that are not, myself included! So by not placing over reliance on people, places and things, I can be as happy and contented as I set my mind to be - sure shit will and does still happen. It's how I deal with it that is important. Strangely enough since I started to adopt this approach to life, things have just got better and better. So I will continue doing what I do on a daily basis - I am not seeking perfection, but merely progress and that suits me just fine.



Friday, 4 May 2012

Blue Moon Rising?


Ah, the Bank Holiday weekend is upon us and after a tough week in my working world of accident claims, time for some relaxation and putting the old feet up. Perhaps a bit of sport on the TV? Let's see what have we got? Saturday.. the FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Chelsea? Problem with that is that I can't stand either of them, so that would be a case of trying to decide which of them I want to lose most, and that's a tough call. No, that's not much fun. What about tomorrow, wait what's that, Sky Sports on Sunday - Newcastle United v Manchester City - oh no - I wanted some relaxation - I'd forgotten this was on.

I jest of course. As a lifelong City fan, how could I possibly have forgotten about this? I HAVE tried to forget about it ever since the majestic Vincent Kompany rose above Chris Smalling to power City past United in the derby match last Monday. Amidst all the euphoria of beating the old enemy on Monday night, I have to confess that I got carried away just a little with all the other City fans, before reality kicked in with the knowledge that we have to visit a resurgent Newcastle at the Mike Ashley Stadium on Sunday and WIN to further the dream of winning the Premier League title. The Geordie boys cracking victory at Chelsea on Wednesday whetted the appetite still further - or should I say made visits to the loo a half hourly necessity.

I was on this earth the last time City last won the top division in 1968, spookily by also going up to Newcastle and winning 4-3, whilst United lost to Sunderland on the same day. I don't remember much about it though. I have to confess, that whilst I had by then become interested in football, my Dad used to take me to see both City and United with the latter having the mercurial talents of Georgie Best and in those formative yearsI defy any youngster seeing the little magician in his pomp in  not to fall into a trance when the ball was at his feet.

But gradually City alone got into my pores, fuelled by my sister who from nowhere became a City fanatic. So the visits to OT were discontinued and a life of footballing highs, lows and more lows was born. But out of adversity came humour and following City has provided much gallows humour over the past 40 odd years that have followed. The banana's and the interminable time it took to blow the damn things up outside the away end at places like Leicester, Ipswich and dare I say it York City. "Blue Moon" - when the City fans first adopted this as their anthem, I remember being at Norwich away, with my late Mum and Dad on one of their by now rare visits to see the boys in blue. My Mum heard some City fans on the way to the ground whistling Blue Moon and thought they were Norwich fans pretending to be Canaries!

Many happy memories, friendships and laughs - enough to fill a book.

So to this weekend. I will get on with life today and then again tomorrow will doubtless wake from a fitful sleep with a churning stomach as I did last Monday. That morning I sent a text to my fellow Blue, Ged Shields, a VP at American giant Sherwin Williams, and someone with whom I have shared a blue friendship for over 30 years . I told him that at 7.30 am last Monday I was a physical and mental wreck thinking about the derby. He replied that he hadn't been able to sleep at all that night.

And what will happen tomorrow? Come on, this is City - absolutely anything is possible - and I mean anything.  For now I will try and calm my shattered nerves by telling myself it's been a great season whatever happens - and it has. In reality, though I desperately want it to turn out to have been a GREAT season. "Blue Moon you saw me standing alone..."

View From The Claimant Camp - Is There Anyone At Home?



                                                                            

I have to confess that I have developed the habit in recent times, upon waking and after making the life-saving cup of tea, of switching the laptop on and diving straight into Social Media. The other day I went straight to one of my favourite sites, the excellent ‘Legal Futures’ and there it was – an article with the headline ‘Government confirms U-turn on raising small claims limit for PI claims.’ My immediate thought was, ‘where is Maggie when U-turns are being talked about by a Tory government?’
My disposition quickly turned to anger. Just a few months ago the government said that the personal injury small-claims limit would remain at £1000. That was following the ‘Solving dispute in county courts’ consultation – consultation, that’s right. So what has changed in a few short months for the government to perform a U-turn?

Furthermore the article went on to state, that in the summer, the government ’will consult on this (increasing the limit) and on the feasibility of introducing independent medical panels to replace the current assessment of whiplash injuries either by GP’s or by doctors employed by medical reporting organisations’. The Moj’s  statement justifying  this, included the now well worn chestnut of ‘transparent and consistent approach to assessment and easier identification of exaggerated or fraudulent injuries.” Ah yes, “fraudulent claims/injuries”, “exaggerated” – add to that your own list - here are a few more to help you : “compensation culture”, “blame culture” “whiplash claims” (meaning any injury that has a compensatory value of less than £5000), “genuine victims”, “No Win – No Fee” (this has to be said in a certain manner to get the full effect ie the words have to be spat out). You get my drift – sound bites.

The government spokesman went on to provide further justification for these proposed measures;
“This is part of a package of reforms, including reforms ‘no win, no fee (spit)’ and referral fees. This will reduce costs for insurers (ah, right) – savings which we strongly encourage (note the use of very gentle word – ‘encourage’) them to pass onto consumers through cheaper premiums (breath not being held.)’

To his credit Law Society President Wotton did weigh in with the following;

“Fraud is entirely indefensible and the Law Society has made it clear time and again that it is happy to work with ministers and the insurance industry on tackling fraud head on – but we must ensure that proper recourse to justice remains available for those who have been injured by the negligence of  others. We doubt that simply giving insurers what they are asking for will reduce premiums.”

So there we have it. Referral fees and ATE are to go. The reducing of the fixed fee that solicitors can claim when they deal with claims under the portal is already underway and leaked emails tell us that the insurers likely starting point will be £150.00 – consultation with the claimant lobby will take place. So £150.00 is what it will be then gov?

Look, I have been involved in this “industry “(hate the term) since the early 1980’s. I worked for and then with, the pioneering Manchester solicitor, the sadly now deceased Keith Beardsell. I worked in his small office when regular visitors would be Chris Norman and David Garner, at that time computer  salesman (of ‘tardis’ sized computers)   and Accountant respectively. The former founded what became 3 Arrows Car Hire, the latter Forward Hire, MSL and now Financial & Legal. I saw the birth of credit hire and RTA claims, as entities in their own right. No the insurers didn’t like them. To claimants’, credit hire, credit repair and efficient solicitors were great services – to the insurers an unwelcome expense. 
                              
                                                                             

In the early to mid 1990’s I was involved at the “coal face” when the insurers and their advisers turned to the medieval concept of ‘Champerty & Maintenance’ to try and persuade the judiciary that credit hire agreements were invalid in law. I was at the House of Lords, when it ruled in the test cases before them, that such agreements were valid. Bloody nose for the insurers no 1.

I had my own practice by the time that the next real test went to the higher courts and the Consumer Credit Act cases of Dimond v Lovell et al were heard. Bloody nose for the insurers no. 2.

Throughout this period and indeed up until the present day, there have been steady streams of precedent cases on “rate of hire” and “length of hire.” That is entirely healthy – some have gone for claimants, some for the insurers.

However, overall throughout the last 25 plus years the claimant “industry” has survived the legal challenges to it. Perhaps that is because it has by and large been conducted along decent, legal lines and also because it provides a very good service to genuine claimants.

To my mind, this is the crux of where we are today. The insurers have failed to defeat what they see as an insidious “industry” per se, by using the courts of the land. So their tack now?  – political lobbying. Hit the governments of the day – of whatever political persuasion – right in the solar plexus – mention ‘vote winning’.

First of all though there had to be a period of building up the right atmosphere. So there was much talk using the sound bites mentioned before “compensation culture” “fraudulent claims” “whiplash injuries”, “NoWin, No Fee (I will have to clean the study floor of all this spittle) and of course “reducing insurance premiums”. We all want lower insurance premiums, particularly those of us with children of a certain age who are desperate to get their independence from “Mum and Dad’s taxi” (I wouldn’t mind some independence for Dad either) .

Then attack – and boy haven’t they done well these insurance boys (and girls). So, it seems we are now at the stage where it’s almost mission complete and the insurers have got their way. I’m not suggesting that they have done anything wrong either morally or legally and of course the claimant camp has a voice but either it has been ignored, or as I suspect, it has not made itself heard loudly or effectively enough. I wonder where all those fighters from the 90’s have disappeared to? Probably grown into middle age and beyond as I have (I will own up to the former, not yet the latter). Possibly in their place have come those who have become complacent and if they have woken up to what is happening, they have done so too late. So like the Wolverhampton Wanderers defence have done this season, they have stood dozing on the half way line whilst the opposition has scored goals at will.

Nor am I saying that there is no need for reform. I have never liked referral fees. As a solicitor with my own practice, starting up in 1994, I built my business up  by marketing very actively – getting my hands dirty by going out to see insurance, brokers, garages, legal expense insurers and gradually growing by providing a good, honest and efficient service and gaining a decent reputation. I resisted referral fees for as long as I possibly could, but when they became permitted in the late 90’s I had to give in eventually. I recall spending what for a small practice was a not inconsiderable sum on doing some cable TV advertising (hands up who remembers cable TV?). Our advert used to go out between the topless darts and the weather girl – or was it the topless weather girl and the darts? No wonder we got some strange enquiries! I recall at the time speaking to a good friend who acted as a mentor to me , and who was the Senior Partner of a large, successful RTA practice in the north. He asked me how much I had paid for the advertising and when I told him, he said to me that for that amount, he could buy around three hundred guaranteed fee bearing case leads. I had to take that on board and accept defeat. Ultimately the bulk of referral fees end up in the pockets of the insurance brokers, garages and recovery agents (not to mention LEI’s). They do not, in my experience though, add any cost whatsoever to the claim in so far as the paying insurer is concerned. They are swallowed up as a necessary evil by the claimants solicitor.

Like everyone else, I abhor fraudulent claims. I am aware that unfortunately the practice of sham accidents and false claimants has risen over the past 10 years. I had a few scenarios when in practice where I or my fee earners suspected dodgy dealings were afoot and we got shot of them and reported them very quickly. Even as recently as the past couple of months ago,  I came across an outfit advertising for PI’s to be referred to them for a payment of many hundreds of pounds on a social media site. I played along by making some enquiries of them, but when I broached the question of seeing their MoJ authorised business number, they quickly went silent on me. I reported them via the Claims Regulation website and asked to be kept informed – however that was about 4 weeks ago, and I have not heard a word from the authority. I’m not aware if the outfit in question were involved in fraudulent claims, but as far as I could see they were not authorised to carry out claims management services as they ought to be. I simply did what the vast majority of those in the claimant camp would do, and reported them.

It just frustrates and indeed angers me that by using soundbites, vote winning words and slogans, as the government and insurers do, all claimant solicitors, all claimants, all of the smaller injuries suffered by those claimants, all AMC’s, all credit hire companies and so on, are tarred with the same very unfair brush.
Neither do we hear a great deal about the inefficiencies and at times ( I am being kind using the words ‘at times’) incompetence of insurers, in the way they approach the handling of claims. A whole book could be written on my experiences of dealing with insurers, and the quality of staff that they have historically employed, but suffice it to say that were as much attention and time poured into them sharpening up their own act, as has been put into their cosying up to the governments of recent times, considerable savings could already have been made on insurance premiums.

Anyway, in 18 months time, please folks tell the world how much your insurance premiums have come down, once those nasty claimants and their even nastier advisors have been trampled underfoot. Or will it be the case that the insurers will have to find new scapegoats as to the reasons why surprise, surprise, they haven’t really come down at all?


Thursday, 26 April 2012

The First Time

I suspect that the first blog post on a new blog is the hardest to write. Do I just jump straight in? What do I talk about? Having given myself the big write up as being involved in fields as diverse as legal marketing and cricket equipment retailing, I can  at least say that I have a wide choice of topics to choose from.

So I suppose I can tell you that my posts will be mixed - there will be some cricket as that is my passion. There will be some thoughts on life in general but the main thrust will be all things legal and particularly my thoughts on what is going on in the legal world in 2012 and beyond. There will be a few bits about certain demons that I have personally had to battle too (no, don't get excited - I am not a mass murderer, reformed or otherwise).

It is the law though, civil stuff, that has got hold of me again. After selling my own RTA/PI practice in 2003, I vowed that that was it. I had had enough of all that and was going to concentrate on being a Dad, a husband and devoting myself to rather more selfless pursuits. I did too, particularly in the coaching of youngsters at sport. So I qualified as a cricket coach and coached cricket both in a school and at my local cricket club, taking one set of youngsters from being  pretty hopeless Under 9 year olds through to the same group becoming champions of Hertfordshire at the U14 age group.

I dabbled in other businesses too - set up with my wife, an on-line used, sometimes rare, book business because it sounded a nice, quaint thing to do and it is a nice, quaint thing to do. We still own that business Stortbooks and I still love going out into the converted stables where over 20,000 books are meticulously shelved and catalogued due to the efforts of Mrs Spin King. I always feel that the stables are somewhere I wouldn't mind being locked in and forgotten about by the rest of the world for a few months.

We bought a couple of properties too, one being our apartment in Cannes which we rent out at www.apartmentincannes.co.uk Fascinating place Cannes - type of place where walking past Roman Abramovich in a shopping mall, as has happened on a couple of occasions, seems somehow so natural (shameless name dropping).

It wasn't long though before I was actively involved in an Accident Management Company that I had bought into whilst I still owned Waring & Co, Impact Assist. I did leave and sell my share in the business but my attempt to get away again from the RTA/PI stuff still didn't work, and I find back working with the guys at Impact, doing some marketing and otherwise promoting them.

Then the natural progression has been to help out other firms and businesses in the accident compensation arena. My old friend Peter Scott, when I sold Waring & Co, said to me "You won't be able to get away from it you know - it's in your blood." Damn him, he was right - but why couldn't it have been the film industry or novel writing that was in my blood instead of dealing with people's accident claims!

So here I am, in 2012, with the industry about to face the biggest challenges it has ever seen over the coming 12 months and the bug has got to me more than ever. I've even got the old Practising Certificate back up and running (oh no, not Waring & Co MK II?)


What is it with this business vilified by so many that has got to me again? Well I suppose that it is the fact that it IS facing such challenges, that appeals. So whilst most in the industry are thinking of getting out as undamaged as possible, as soon as possible, muggins here, is looking to get stuck in again - well is already getting stuck in, helping and advising those like-minded individuals and practices who see this as a time of opportunity. We overcame the raising of the old arbitration limit from £500 to £1000, then to £5000 unless there was injury worth at least £1000 in the claim. We saw off the Champerty & Maintenance arguments relating to Credit Hire agreements in the early 90's and we battled successfully, from a claimants point of view again, to defeat the Consumer Credit Act challenges of the late 90's relating to both Credit Hire and Credit Repair agreements - and the present challenges that will be caused by the banning of referral fees  and the lowering of recoverable costs under the RTA portal, are there to be overcome as well, certainly for those that are ready to get stuck in and get their hands dirty ( and I don't mean in terms of 'dirty practice'). Openings will appear in the market - there will be casualties - both solicitors practices and AMC's, but for others windows of opportunity will open up. Somewhere ,you will find me stood at the top of a hill, with my flag, ready to stick it in the summit - I promise you.