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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.....