Posted by Matthew Pascall, senior underwriting manager at Litigation Futures Associate Temple Legal Protection
As we move forward into 2018, I share some insights likely to affect litigators over the coming months. Some will be anecdotal, some technical and, hopefully for the reader, all of significance in some way.
Litigation costs are expected to be in the spotlight and we hope to get further clarity over how the LASPO changes are applied in practice with regard to proportionality. Demouilpied v Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and West v Stockport NHS Foundation Trust are due to be heard in the Court of Appeal before summer this year.
Last year saw a similar message delivered by all sides of the legal sector during the Legal Futures Innovation Conference: the marketplace is evolving with greater rapidity, technology is becoming increasingly relevant, and ambitious new firms are looking to offer added value in order to secure long-term client relationships.
It is likely that the majority of growth will come through merger and acquisitions which will naturally concentrate the number of firms. Niche/specialist practices should also see further opportunity in the marketplace.
Commercial litigation: Business clients are looking for clarity and consistency regarding litigation costs, how they can mitigate risk and also reduce the impact of litigation on cash flow.
The call by the Competition & Markets Authority and others for law firms to publish hourly rates will not satisfy this requirement and may only lead to further confusion, particularly when combined with the regulated/unregulated practice imbroglio.
Law firms that recognise their business clients need financial stability, through the proactive packaging of fully preventive and protective legal solutions, will be very attractive.
CFAs, ATE/BTE insurance schemes, disbursement funding and litigation management, all offered as a package, used to be the preserve of the personal injury and medical negligence market, but consider the reasoning behind this: the clientele targeted were those who had limited cash flow, low financial resilience and meritorious claims.
Any firm that can offer a risk-free litigation service with little or no upfront cost to businesses will win new clients.
Personal injury and medical negligence: Fixed recoverable costs and an increase in the small claims limit for personal injury is having a significant effect on the legal services sector.
Costs lawyers and PI departments have seen reduced work and this has led in some cases to PI firms taking up medical negligence work with varying success, compounded by a difficulty in obtaining insurance backing.
The two disciplines are distinct from each other and ultimately insurers are looking for positive indicators, such as: accreditation from Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) or the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers; at least two partners with significant experience; a dedicated support team; and a demonstrable risk assessment process.
Here at Temple Legal Protection, we have some exciting new developments rolling out during 2018, including Litigation Advantage Plus for clinical negligence claims; ATE insurance combined with disbursement funding in one package for commercial litigation; and our Employer Protection Scheme, which provides a comprehensive prevention and protection package for employers.
In addition to our upgraded online portal TOPS that went live at the end of last year, we are also launching our new website in the coming weeks which has been redesigned and fully mobile optimised, to ensure our clients can get hold of information and decisions when they’re needed.
This year will present challenges, just like last year and all those before. The litigation market remains strong and success will come through pragmatism, flexibility and proactive positive change.