15 April 2013Print This Post

And now the good Jackson news: deskilling decade over as reforms “push PI legal expertise to the fore”

Graves: ‘back to basics’ approach to litigation

The Jackson reforms will force personal injury (PI) solicitors to move away from a volume process-driven approach that has led to a deskilling of the profession in recent years, a boutique personal injury consulting law firm has predicted.

Citadel Law, an SRA-regulated law firm, said high levels of legal expertise will be driven to the fore by the need to case and cost plan on the multi-track, allowing firms with such skills to charge higher rates.

Further, the Draconian new limits on low-value cases will encourage solicitors to examine claims more closely to check if injuries are more serious than they at first appear, said Citadel founder and managing director Lesley Graves.

From her past auditing work at many law firms, Ms Graves estimated that up to 10% of cases deemed to be low-value have actually involved more serious injuries – such as brain and psychological damage – missed because of IT-led processes operated by under qualified fee earners.

“There are many parts of the Jackson reforms that are positive, and client-focused law firms are rolling up their sleeves and adopting a ‘back to basics’ approach to litigation ensuring absolute focus on client care and getting the best result in rehabilitation and compensation,” she said.

“Of course there needs to be a strong element of process in low-value PI cases, but process must be underpinned by strong legal expertise at key points to ensure a proper evaluation of a case and avoid negligence. The lawyers have to lead the case, not the technology, not least because the consequences of undervaluing a serious case could be devastating to both the client and the firm. Firms without the expertise to do this will not survive much longer.

“The new requirement to prospectively set costs budgets in multi-track cases means expert case planning is vital; experienced PI lawyers who put their clients’ needs and case and cost planning at the heart of the process from day one will succeed. Many firms are increasing their hourly rates and reducing their caseloads, quite rightly, as a result of the expertise they have and they are set to be market leaders.”

Ms Graves argued that part of the problem is that in the rush to commoditisation in PI over previous years – in part driven by new entrants to the market attracted by quick profits – process has eclipsed the true expertise required to risk assess and run PI work effectively.

Ms Graves, a former partner at Irwin Mitchell, is supported by a core team of nine solicitors, plus additional consultants with backgrounds at the country’s leading PI firms, both claimant and defendant, who work with law firms to better understand their businesses by improving processes and driving the maximum profit from their caseloads.

Citadel Law said it is also instructed by banks, accountants, private investors and others to advise as technical auditors of value and risk in PI firms and enhancement of systems.

By admin


2 Responses to “And now the good Jackson news: deskilling decade over as reforms “push PI legal expertise to the fore””

  1. We may see a reversal of deskilling at multi-track level – perhaps – but the majority of people are employed on the fast-track level.

    With the reduction in fees, and the increased use of the box ticking exercise that is “the portal”, deskilling is only going to get worse at that level. Which then begs the question as to how skills are going to be developed to progress upwards to the multi-track?

    The suggestion that 10% of low value cases are in fact big bucks serious injury claims in disguise is unfortunately wishful thinking.

  2. Mike on April 16th, 2013 at 6:36 pm
  3. With the further introduction of the portal it is an unfortunate fact that more and more qualified Personal Injury Solicitors will simply lose interest in the industry over the new entrants and paralegals. Personal injury is more a stepping stone into the legal industry now than it ever was. The stack em high approach won’t in my view result in better risk assessment or service to the client.

    Multi track cases have always been a specialists role but unfortunately as stated above the industry in my view will lose the heart of their businesses. The bread and butter came from RTA’s which gave income to allow disbursements and salaries to be paid while the higher end cases trek through the process of litigation to settlement.

    Nice idealistic views but is it possible to achieve?

  4. Matthew Waterfield Simply Lawyers on May 4th, 2013 at 10:32 am