Double jeopardy

21 Aug 2019

Long before claimant personal injury lawyers had their fees drastically cut by civil litigation reforms, insurers were using their commercial power to suppress their own external legal spend. Two decades of downward pressure on rates has driven consolidation and innovation among defendant PI firms, though some feel such pressure has gone too far – one insurance executive is said to have boasted he spent more on carpets than lawyers. But whereas many claimant lawyers think government justice policies will kill many classes of claim, insurer lawyers are not so sure. They believe claimant firms are adapting their strategy to keep claims viable. Practice in road traffic accident claims is set to be a particular battleground, and the prevalence of claims management companies means a high volume of claims must be dealt with at low cost.

BLM's managing partner Vivienne Williams and director of policy and government affairs Alistair Kinley spoke to Melanie Newman for Law Society Gazette.

Discussing moving with the times, Vivienne Williams said: "Every insurance law firm has had to adapt their practices and ways of working over the last 5-10 years. It’s no longer just about great legal advice – that’s a given.

‘A key change for us is the creation of a data analytics function in 2017, run by a qualified lawyer and two data scientists, because we recognised the need to add value that goes beyond providing data about claims. The volume of case data generated by the insurance and other sectors provides a valuable resource, which can be increasingly exploited by the speed and accuracy of data analytics and artificial intelligence.

‘There are key challenges facing the modern firm, with an ever-growing number of companies trying to find a firm that “does it all”, creating demand for a greater diversification of services. We adapted our business model by creating a commercial advisory and private wealth business stream, which we did over a year ago. It complements our core insurance offering and it means that we’ve expanded the range of services we offer to our insurer clients and their customers."

Alistair Kinley shared his thoughts on what is needed from the Ministry of Justice: "There’s a pressing need for more frequent communication and more visible leadership from the MoJ over the coming months to allow the sector to adapt. A really critical element is the delivery of an accessible and user-friendly portal for people to present their claims. There could be some risky unintended consequences – such as a cottage industry of McKenzie friends in whiplash claims – which must be guarded against."

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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Alistair Kinley

Alistair Kinley

Director of Policy & Government Affairs,

Vivienne Williams

Vivienne Williams

Managing Partner,

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