The personal injury sector is possibly the most deluded and self-aggrandising I have ever worked in. It is currently beset by capped fees, limited work streams and insurance lobby pressure, all of which is pushed forward at great pace by the government, and all of which are its own fault.
No one made personal injury firms get into bed with CMCs and pay referral fees. No one made them pay clients for cases. No one made them obtain ATE premiums when they weren't needed. Nor were they forced into arrangements with MROs. They chased the dragon of profit over the edge of the cliff (lovely mixed metaphor) and were happy to do it. Sound familiar to any insurers you could think of?
Before I am lynched at the next Law Association Dinner, please do not think that my cynicism is aimed at all firms or even all lawyers at those firms who have conducted litigation in the fashion described. They aren't. There are, and always have been, solicitors, barristers, paralegals and Legal Executives whose focus was on providing a good service, helping the injured and making a fee that was reasonable for the work incurred. I would like to count myself amongst that number.
I have never paid a referral fee. I have never blandly issued an ATE policies at the inception of a case. I have never entered into an arrangement with an MRO. However, I have acted for countless local clients with genuine, and sometimes life changing, injuries. I have always sought the best medical experts regardless of relationship to my firm. When insurance was needed I got it, and when it wasn't I didn't.
I know I am not alone. Those firms and lawyers who truly wish to help always have and always will. True, margins will be pushed and we must adapt to the times, but success is possible.
The message the industry needs to push isn't that genuine claims need to be allowed however caused or limited - this is self-evident. The message that the public need to hear is that we care because we can be trusted to do our jobs properly and represent them and not look to merely to profit unlike the insurance lobby.
I do not feel that I need to start winning the hearts and minds of the public because I never stopped in the first place.
Neil Sugarman (pictured), incoming president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, told the association's annual conference that members need to be better at communicating their message to the wider public. Sugarman, managing partner of Manchester firm GLP Solicitors, said lawyers should offer to give talks to doctors about the rehabilitation code and speak with charities and Citizens Advice bureaux, as well as informing local media about successful cases.Personal injury lawyers, he said, should show they are there ‘to make a difference to injured people rather than just chase the money’.