Saturday, December 15, 2007

The party season is upon us!

Every year I provide a snapshot of the goings on at our xmas bash. One thing that can always be guaranteed is that there will be a SCANDAL of some kind involving two people you normally wouldnt expect to misbehave. This year didnt disappoint

But more of that later

My role at these events is always one of crowd control. It comes with the territory nowadays and this is a burden shared by many of my contemporaries. You simply cant let your hair down any more at these events.

That said, you do get to stay scandal free which can be very useful during the coming year.

Here is the scorecard for the night (despite our best efforts)

- 3 vomiting trainees
- 1 fight (well alright a minor scuffle between two aspiring associates)
- 4 very open and steamy snogging sessions
- 2 people making complete asses of themselves trying to paw members of the opposite sex (with an unsuccessful outcome)
- 5 people remonstrated with for abuse of the extremely shortlived "FREE" bar (major no-no)
- 9 people late for work the next day
- 2 stripteases when Sex bomb by Tom Jones came on

Sadly there is one possible sacking following a grope that went badly wrong. The groper thought his actions were appropriate, the victim most certainly did not. Discussions are ongoing but he's got to go in my opinion, it was borderline re police involvement.

In addition to the above there were two quite shocking trysts.

One involving a married partner (a common event) and the other two chaps caught in a cubicle.

The fact that the two chaps were caught at it would not be such a big deal but they were discovered by a senior partner who went for a pee and heard them on the job. "Im not having that sort of thing going on in this practice" came the response. Oh dear..... if only he knew what else was happening on the night!
Id better keep my little scorecard to myself

Have a merry one everybody..... and dont forget, at the xmas party you are always being watched. Take my advice and have your fun elsewhere!!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

If this doesnt make you laugh.......

From Tim Kevans blog - the funniest cat clip ever:

Friday, November 16, 2007

How much do solicitors get paid?

Now here's a subject you wont see written about often, if ever on the blawg circuit.


Bit vulgar for some but lets face it - you aint in this game for the love.

How much is a 2 year qualified solicitor paid nowadays?

We are recruiting right now and weve got the usual discussions going on with senior staff. We all read the
Gazette and see the salaries on offer. Remuneration will generally be based on a few key factors:

Candidates experience
The firm's policy

Now we had a good discussion this week about commission versus nailed on salary. My view is that we should offer low to mid range salary packages with good commission so that the successful candidates can earn good money if they work hard and get results. Equally if you mess about you will get very little above your salary.

Regular readers (I have around 5) will know that I dont like shirkers or trainees who think the world owes them a living. Im old school and proud of it.

People in our senior team seem to favour mid level salary with little or no commission. The package is enhanced after 2 years etc.

For a 2 year qualified solicitor in the personal injury field:
With commission - good people will earn around £40k

Without - it will be in the low 30s

We dont offer any extra benefits - its a lean mean machine that we run here Im afraid. But my view is commission works every time over guaranteed salary.

Here's some useful info on salaries in the industry

Oh and by the way - I earn £65k plus bonuses, private healthcover, fuel allowance, life cover and I also get free coffee - in case your wondering

Our top men earn around £80k plus the extras and equity share

The top man clears £120k plus his bonuses and of course the largest slice of equity

When you get to this level - the job definitely does pay well.

Told you this was a vulgar subject - but why the hell shouldnt we discuss it on the blogosphere?

Friday, November 09, 2007

New legal blogs

Not had a look around for fresh blood for some time. In the last 12 months that I have been blogging there has been a surge of new blawgs coming online.

Here is a few that caught my eye:

Pupillage and how to get it

Law Minx


Law Actually

Oh how I pray for an insurer based blogger (or blawgger) to publish something - surely they must have something to say on that side of the fence?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When partners get sacked

Had a tough time recently. A senior partner got the bullet following a series of cock ups and issues with his team.

It was sadly a slow death. First he was moved to an office fondly known as "the cellar". Then stripped of staff responsibilities and reporting duties. Finally he was bombarded with files which he was ill equipped to deal with.

Its the classic law firm guillotine method. Humiliate and then pile the pressure on.

The inevitable happened and he cracked - walking out with barely a whimper or a backwards glance. 14 years service and bugger all to show for it - not even a lunch or a card.

He is a nice enough chap and as you might expect people were upset at the way things were handled.

There will soon be a succession and regrettably this will involve an external appointment. What a pain that is going to be. Usual scenario is that someone will come in and be offered the chance of partnership if they impress. Few succeed

An aspirant solicitor out to impress can however, be a very dangerous beast. The next few months could be rather interesting.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Skeleton crews and coping with the holiday season

At this time of year as a manager of a team you have one major headache

Holidays - or as lawyers prefer to call it - annual leave

Now personally speaking I have two breaks every year one at Christmas for 10 days and one in early summer for two weeks. I dont as a rule take time during the year save for an odd day here and there. My reasons for taking such limited time off is simply that it is expected of me.

Ive had this routine for a while now and so have become accustomed to it. You cant complain if you reap other rewards generally and if the top brass dont holiday much - neither do the next tier down.

Now this little unwritten sub clause is not one that the junior staff need to adhere to. Its the one thing I envy them for. Leave will be used up at every opportunity

Right now were deep in the doo doo with barely 50% staff - despite this being a planned exercise its bloody difficult to keep everything ticking over.

You can guarantee the following during this difficult period:

- there will be a client complaint about service on an absentees file
- there will be a CMC on an absentee's file that lands annoyingly on the worst possible day
- the brass will ask awkward questions about an absentee's file you know there are problems with
- somewhat unhelpfully, other departments will offer little assistance and may relish the opportunity to give you a slap
- Morale for those left behind will be very low indeed.

How do you deal with this?

Simple - you get your skeleton crew pissed every Friday evening for the duration of the holiday slog. Young lawyers will always be happily rewarded with free beer and cheap curry.

Its a fact - Im telling you

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wet weather claims

Whilst this summer is truly the worst most people can remember for wet weather, there is a flip side to the deluge. This will really piss some people off but its not bad news for every one - certainly not for injury lawyers.

We have seen a rise in slipping accidents (in shops in particular) and road accidents. Usually you would expect these claims to peak around November-February when winter weather is at its worse. This years mild winter led to a quiet spell during this period but now we are inundated with extra claims that usually you just wouldnt expect.

In the last week alone weve had 6 new supermarket slippers (wet floors, no matting and no signage) 5 rear end shunts and 3 motorcycle accidents on wet surfaces.

There again, on a personal level, my summer so far has been a disaster.

My kids cant play out, all outdoor events including sprts day have been cancelled. Last week our village summer fayre was postponed and this weekend we were hoping for a daytrip to the seaside. Now because of the forecast we are off to the cinema instead.

Truly miserable.

I knew things would go pear shaped following the best Easter weather ever. It was too good to be true.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why some personal injury clients suck!

Im going through a bad patch at the moment regarding my faith in clients. Im referring to personal injury victims who can be classified in two very different categories :-

Those that are GENUINE and those that are FAKE

Its stating the bleeding obvious to some but here is my classification of both types:

GENUINE clients
Will (usually) have injuries you can see, feel or identify without much debate
Will not be able to work (but I dont rule out those that have no choice but to work)
Will be desparate for treatment / physio / therapy
Will be grateful for almost everything you do for them
Will be anxious and apprehensive about the legal process
Will be "clingy" and sometimes overly so - high maintenance in other words
Will induce sympathy from most claim related people / experts they encounter
Will usually be left with long term problems or vulnerabilities
Will be grateful upon conclusion of the case and thank you warmly for your advice
Will give you a degree of job satisfaction
Will usually guarantee you a decent bill of costs

FAKE clients:
Will call you on the day of the accident to start their claim
Will ask you how much their claim is worth - almost immediately
Will never call you or ask for advice
Will always moan when you do speak
Will never return / sign key documents until pushed to do so
Will want to settle the case in the shortest time possible
Will never be happy with whatever settlement you get them - "my mate got more"
Will never EVER thank you

Guess what. In my line of work I come across roughly a 50/50 split in terms of the fakers and the genuine.
I think that most law firms make a packet off the back of people that are clearly winging it and playing the system - in the PI field this is definitely the case. Im not too fussed about the ethics of this but occasionally, just occasionally, it irks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

PAT testing - is your firm up to speed?

Portable Appliance Testing is not something I would like to bang on about on this blog but I have been charged with arranging the tests for our law firm - weve been a bit slow in embracing this legal requirement. A systematic PAT testing regime is an important part of general health & safety in the workplace

Its an odd situation because I say legal requirement but in fact PAT testing itself is not a legal requirement - its the need to take "precautions" to avoid electrical injury / death that makes the issue so important to ALL businesses. The need to test portable appliances can apply to any business, whether you are a small time mobile hairdresser, landlord, shop owner or a big business.

The following list represents some of the key legislation that applies (there is more out there)

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

Ive been asking a few other business contacts whether their firms are fully protected and tested annually. Surprisingly some medium - ish firms are not tested and do not have the labels or certificates required. Others test only every 2 or 3 years which considering the hammering taken by the average PC - simply isnt enough

Check for your own labels - if your equipment hasnt been tested recently - suggest it to your partner and gain either a slap or a brownie point.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Are there any insurer based people out there that blog?

There is an increasing number of blawgers appearing in our little world (that be the UK legal world) but isnt it odd that you dont see many insurer based blogs.

I raise this because in my game they are the opposition and generally I dont have a lot of time for people that I encounter in day to day combat. That said there are some excellent operators and knowledgeable people on the defendant side of the fence.

So where are they?
Dont Insurance personnel have access to the web?
Dont they have views?

Course they do - so where are the blogs?

If you know of any - let me know. I'll gladly put them on my blogroll and trade punches.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

HIPs Shambles

Its now official - the introduction of Home Information Packs will be
. Its hard to believe that the government have lost their bottle at the eleventh hour in such a pathetic way.

RICS have done the damage with a judicial review application thrown in with sublime timing 2 weeks before the launch date of 1st June.

Our senior conveyancing team have been mooting this prospect for weeks now but somehow you just felt the government would press on regardless. I feel for the law firms and other related businesses who have spent good money on advertising and training. The latter at least wont be a complete waste.

One thing you have to say though is that the government regardless of their majority in the house, do not get to call all the shots in this country. We should be thankful for that at least.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Whiplash compensation - a modern phenomenom

People often sneer when you mention youre in the personal injury game. Its because we lawyers who dabble in the darker arts, are perceived to be the ones feeding the compensation culture in the UK.

Now the sensible voices in the industry (ie APIL) will tell you that there is no compensation culture and that the numbers of claims are declining year on year.

Well I cant speak for the statistics because I couldnt give a toss about figures churned up in some half baked survey - I go on my own instinct and I can tell you now that there definitely IS a compensation culture and I'll explain why.

A mild acquaintance of mine rang me the other day and said he and the wife had suffered a minor bump in the car after he lost control and hit a bollard. His wife was shocked and shaken but nothing too major. His first question to me was - "how much compo would she get for a whippy claim?" He'd lost his bonus and so thought a whiplash claim might be the easy way to recoup the loss. The fact that his wife wasnt injured (much) and didnt seek medical attention - actually held no sway. "Everyone does it" he told me.

Well maybe they do but I cannot take on a case that is dubious from day one and has limited damages potential. It was too risky.

Ive had plenty conversations along these lines over the years. A bump in the car that wasnt your fault nowadays means compensation - one way or another.

Consider the way things used to be:

  • In the 70's and early 80s - you had a bump - the car was the only thing that was discussed
  • This included the insurers who were not too worried about the policyholder
  • You completed your own paper claim form - there was no scripted helpline discussion
  • You were not asked any questions about injuries or the wellbeing of the vehicle occupants
  • You simply put down what happened and stated the vehicle repair costs
  • Occasionally you would see the odd injury appear - usually though they would be the more serious injuries
  • If anyone turned round and said they wanted to claim for whiplash - you nearly fell off your chair and immediately slated them for winging it and being a fraud.
  • You offered a silly figure in compensation - most claimants werent represented because the system did not support this (no LEI etc) and the last thing anyone wanted to do was go into a high street firm and deal with a toffee nosed solicitor with his head lodged firmly up his own ass
  • Most "injured" parties grinned and bared their brief period of pain. It was too much hassle to do anything else.

This was the way things used to be and do you know how I know? Because I used to work on the insurer side of the fence. Like most of the best lawyers around in the personal injury sector - that is where I started my career.

Now we have this situation:

  • You have a bump - the first thing you do if there is any sniff of an injury - is visit the local A&E.
  • The car takes second place
  • You no longer need to gather repair estimates if you are covered comp so you ring your insurer to report the matter and get the ball rolling. You will also ring them if you have limited cover such as third party F&T.
  • Now here's where things are VERY different. The insurer helpline now has a dedicated team dealing with recent accidents (new claims).
  • This team "guide" you through the reporting of the accident and one of the BIG questions will be "were you or any vehicle occupants injured?" If you answer affirmatively - and you will be prodded and poked to do so - then you will immediately have access to legal representation.
  • Now by the end of the first week you might be feeling much better - you had a little niggle in the neck soon after the event but its virtually gone now. But wait - youve already started an injury claim because you said YES to the question. Sod it, theres no point in bringing the compo machine to a halt. Its costing you nothing so why not go ahead.
  • So the claim proceeds, you get the injury compensation in 6-8 months and everyones happy.
  • Oh and the vehicle also gets repaired - mustnt forget the vehicle now must we.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the claimant then tells a pal who tells another pal and before long there is a large group of people who all know its a piece of piss to claim for whiplash injuries. They'll probably do the same if they get chance - its now become the 'done thing' in their eyes

So injuries that once upon a time would never have seen the light of day (and definitely wouldnt be A&E jobs - now become £2500-5000 debts to an insurer somplace. Claims that never used to happen are now made in their hundreds of thousands each year.

The irony of all this is that the insurers who bleat about the compo culture - actually feed the machine. They also get huge kickbacks from their panel solicitors for every injury victim they refer. I guess they feel that if anyones going to get a kickback - it might as well be them. The referral fees involved amount to £millions.

So when it comes to the golden question - is there a compensation culture - the only answer you can give is a resounding YES. Of course their bleeding well is - the system has created it and will continue to feed it.

Im not knocking it. Im just stating the obvious because it wont be long before you read the next chapter in the ' is there a compensation culture?' book.

Its definitely here and its definitely staying.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Personal injury small claims court limit - a victory for common sense

Charlie Falconer may have his critics but as far as Im concerned he's made a great decision in announcing that the small claims personal injury limit will remain at £1000.

Defendant bodies (FOIL & the ABI) have been pushing for some time for the limit to be increased. They would prefer a new ceiling of at least £2500 which they believe would allow claimants (injured victims) to be compensated by the insurers without the involvement of a solicitor. This would reduce costs, reduce delays and still result in adequate compensation being received by the claimant.

To be frank - their argument was complete bollocks.

Insurers dont treat people fairly when they are unrepresented, its a known fact within the industry. Furthermore there are many relatively nasty injuries that can fall within the damages bracket of 2500-3000 such as simple fractures and moderate whiplash injuries. However these claims are not straightforward and most claimants would be left clueless by the procedures and the legalities involved.

Advice bodies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau would be inundated with specialist enquiries they could not handle. The infrastructure would simply not cope.

The DCA have seen through all this and have decided that following a detailed consultation they will be maintaining the current small claims figure of £1000

This means that solicitors can still provide assistance on claims above that level with the assurance that costs can be recovered. This ensures that the claimant is not left with a legal bill, assuming the case is successful, at the end of the case. They have the "access to justice" that they deserve.

So Charlie got this one bang on

He also intends to introduce measures which should help to speed up the whole claims process such as "settlment packs" and compulsory claimant p36 offers when releasing medical evidence. This will in turn reduce costs and delays which was, after all, the main objective of the consultation.

(we can all sleep at night now)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Home Information Packs (HIPs) - Squeaky bum time for property lawyers & conveyancers

This summers big legal news.

Whilst the rest of the legal world in the UK is getting on with business as usual, our friends and colleagues on the property lawyer side of the fence are going through absolute turmoil.

For those who dont know - from June the 1st 2007, anyone selling a residential property in England & Wales will need to prepare a HIP for the benefit of a prospective buyer. The content of the pack has evolved over time and sadly has become somewhat diluted in terms of its efficacy. Many property lawyers / conveyancers believe it to be a complete waste of time, money and effort. Worst still is the accusation that the government have got this badly wrong and that they have completely wasted the opportunity to deal with serious property related consumer issues.

Some partners at our firm were taking part in a training course on HIPs last week when once again the soothsayers were dooming and glooming. There was even a suggestion that the packs simply would not / could not be implemented in time for 1st june deadline.

Its hard to believe that there would be a U turn at this last stage. Surely not?

More bad news seems to be the apparent threat that small - medium law firms now face from estate agents monopolising the whole process with the bigger outfits looking to offer free HIPs as an enticement for the client to sign up. The fees for many are already sqeezed as it is.

I dont know enough about the process to comment in too much depth. But I for one hope that estate agents do not take control of this market any more than they already have done.

Some reading:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Looking for that perfect gift for a partner or colleague with just a smidgeon of humour........

Sometimes naff is good

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What to do with a trainee who has no interest in your department

Trainees - ive said many times on this blog - have a pretty hard time at most law firms. Its a rites of passage thing and unfortunately youve just got to get thru it.

Most trainees will be better for it because things can only get better. Some trainees will leave the job as a result of their experience and frankly tosspots like that we can do without anyway so no harm done. If you cant stand the heat as a trainee your unlikely to make the grade as a fully fledged lawyer. Most good trainees have nothing much to worry about, doff your cap, keep your head down and impress when the time comes.

Now I generally have a lot of time for trainees because Im not a dyed in the wool masochist like some at our firm. But I do have one pet hate and that concerns trainees who clearly couldnt give a toss about your beloved department as they pass thru on their training cycle.

I have a trainee at the moment who clearly does not want to be anywhere near the personal injury department. She is counting the hours until she departs and she's currently only 3 weeks into a 6 month stint.
After weeks of complete disinterest and barely concealed boredem, today I exploded and unfortunately had to chew her to pieces in front of the crew. It was no more than she deserved.
I spent half an hour trying to explain the not so finer points of working out a limitation date from the day of the incident. She just didnt get it and kept on fixing a date exactly 3 years hence instead of allowing for weekends, bank holidays and on one occasion Christmas day.
The lady is not only thick (she though a loss of amenity claim involved the closure of a local gym) but she has no interest in trying to learn.

What you should do is get your head down, pretend that the departmental job you are doing is THE most interesting legal job on the planet and oooh and aaaah every time someone mentions a decent settlement or quirky client story. Its the done thing.

What you dont do is make it plain that you are marking time, cant wait to ditch the department and head for the hallowed turf of conveyancing land or some other dark place at the earliest opportunity. This lady couldnt manage a shopping trip round Tescos without asking for help let alone deal with commercial law which is her "career goal"

Im sorry to say that today she finally provoked me into a two minute tirade. I pointed out that regardless of whether she likes PI or not - she is stuck here for 6 months with me and she has 1 week to show that she gives a damn otherwise her training contract is in the bin. If she doesnt even pretend to show a little interest she is out the f*ckin door. I will see to it personally.

She apologised weakly , looked around for sympathy, saw there was none available and then left for the loo bursting into tears before she got there.

She'll be spending more time in the loo if things dont improve rapidly.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Car Park posturing

I lease a car that I use to get to + from work and also own a separate family motor. The lease car is, shall we say the "nice" one and the family motor is used as a skip with every nook and cranny stuffed with the kids garbage. (something in this car reeks of sweat but despite searching high and low we cant locate what it is and have to apologise to any random passengers - one day we'll unearth something green, gooeey and very smelly from some deep interior storage compartment)

My lease car is my "LOOK AT ME IVE GOT A GOOD JOB" car. I unashamedly use it for showing off and ensuring that my subordinates know I earn far more than they do. (ok its leased but they dont know that!) Sad, vacuous and shallow I realise but hey its my blog and Im just being honest.This led me to thinking that our car park really is a hotbed of hierachical posturing. At every level within our firm you have little battles going on regarding who's driving what and how new the car is. Women invariably tend to drive Mini's almost irrespective of rank or seniority.Men of power go for Beamers and the more senior you are - the bigger your Beamer number! Im a 5 series man but I may just opt for a number 7 this time around. If only to see the face of the top man who believes that 7's are for those at the pinnacle.

Last month we had a major blip in this otherwise consistent car park microcosm of society. A secretary (who calls herself an assistant but really she isnt - she's a typist for a muppet fee earner who cant use MS Word) pulls up in a lovely, superbly flashy mazda sports car. She previously had a Fiesta and so the tongues began wagging. I overheard a chat during a water cooler moment.

Not being blessed in the looks department - in fact she is as dowdy as Betty off Coronation Street - people decided she had come into some money possibly thru an inheritance. Then she started getting stick for showing off and being profligate!You wouldnt believe the jealousy that goes on over something so simple.

Fair play to her. Cant wait for the weather to get warm and see her pull up with her top down.

Take a look at your own works car park. I'll bet its much the same. The pecking order exists even before you reach the front door of most law firms

Thursday, March 15, 2007

All aboard the Eastern European "Litigation Express"

There is something about people from behind what was the iron curtain. They really do know an awful lot about their legal rights.

To say that they or at least their parents were possibly brought up under a totalitarian regime, this demographic are happy to jump on the compensation bandwagon for even the slightest reason. Im not saying they are vexatious litigants, just incredibly aware of how this country and its marvellous civil laws protect one and all.

We are picking up literally dozens of Polish, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Balkan claimants right now. Obviously this is helped by the huge influx of migrant workers into the UK.

One guy rings up today, accident at work which is by far the best PI business out there - barely spoke English but was able to ask in a disjointed fashion:

How much compensation do I win?
Is it No win No fee?
When will I get paid?
He also wanted to know what slice we took from damages and was gobsmacked when I said zilch!

He probably struggles to order a coffee in the caff yet here he is asking me about compo because he fell off a ladder and had no training (his argument by the way not one prompted by me). He virtually tried to educate me on the working at height regs!

So the guy is on board and in the bag. But thats the easy bit

When you start discussing funding and cover oral advice that can be when your problems with foreign claimants really start. Now there is rarely any LEI cover in place - most migrants or even long term residents tend to have no insurance of any kind. So youre left with the CFA which is fine by me because as ever Im happy to take my 20-40% wedge.

But this is the difficult part. How the hell do you explain a CFA to a person with limited English? Its impossible. You can barely get away with it when explaining the finer points to a native. Anyone with half a brain will inevitably be confused and every sensible lawyer will agree that the new cfa is the biggest pile of horse crap that has ever landed on our desks.

Best practice would be of course to translate through one means or another in order to ensure the key message within the CFA gets across.

Sod that. Its not the bleedin United Nations.

Tell you what though - there really is gold in them thar eastern European hills.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Heads up for this blog

Its got to be one of the funniest around:
A partners night out - when the senior men let their hair down

We have an eclectic mix of partners at our firm.

Some are sharks who will eat you alive soon as look at you. Some are piranhas who hunt only in packs and when cornered alone just blow bubbles. Others can be as slippery as eels and contain more oil than the average whale carcass. They're the ones you have to watch

There are many good guys of course but generally you have to be careful with one's peers.

Last week we had a night out to celebrate another successful year. There is one partner who is a little leftfield and slightly odd in comparison to the rest. The clean living, tree hugging type who does yoga every morning and only eats organic. He's as stiff and as "Old Etonian" as you can get in the north of england (he didnt do Eaton but you get the picture). He's incredibly posh and clever using words like "paragon" whilst drunk to describe a tight client who wont pay his bill (I didnt know what a paragon was until I looked it up)

But on this particular night out we saw a different side to him.

We went to a cheesy niteclub and had a bit of a boogie. Pretty embarrassing really - we looked like a group of middle aged gay blokes dancing round their manbags - any decent folk around created an exclusion zone, a moat of dissociation to ensure that they werent linked with us. Whilst bopping away - who should leap on the dancefloor but Mr Tree Hugger himself. He was like a man possessed, arms all over the place, eyes wide and glazed, dancing like an octopus on acid. At first we found it quite amusing and went along with it forming a circle and clapping vigorously in support.

But then it got a little uncomfortable because, despite 3 or 4 records changes - this mad, trance-like dance just continued. Same movement, same eyes, same motion. We started drifting off, one by one to stand on the sidelines. I was sadly one of the last to move because I felt a bit sorry for the chap and tried communicating with him. This was of course impossible.

Most onlookers from the firm were now staring slackjawed and stunned into silence. Was this the same chap? had someone spiked his drink? Was he just a show off or simply trying to fit in with the group

By now he had a circle of "new" friends who were definitely not part of our group and this only encouraged him. He was the unofficial cabaret for the night.

The DJ switched to a SKA montage which totally bamboozled him and he lost his rythm. He writhed his way off the dancefloor and that was that. Conversation resumed and he rejoined the group as though nothing had happened.

This guy is senior. He is well respected and knowledgeable. The problem now is that no one can get the mental picture of him dancing like a maniac out of their head. Word got round and he was not best pleased.

Who can blame him. You have a meeting with him in attendance and refer a matter of the utmost importance - all you see is that "dance" playing over and over in your mind like a youtube clip. He's like the Numa Numa fat guy - it really did happen but he doesnt want to hear anyone talking about it.

There were a few more juicy going on that night involving sex, fighting and vomiting. But the dance is the one thing everyone is talking about

Friday, February 16, 2007

Search engine optimisation - the price of visibility on the web

We have recently had a few consultations with a number of UK and US search engine optimisation (SEO) experts. For the uninitiated, seo is the art of making your website visible on the internet with a view to acquiring consistent levels of organic traffic

Its a complex area. It is also a "new" industry and as such there are good bad and ugly operators who can work wonders with your site - or likewise shaft you completely getting you banned by the big search engines (well ok I mean Google)

We needed advice on:

Good link resources - oneway links back to our site etc
A tip or two about internal linking (anchor text and navigation)
Ideas for fresh content (news etc)
A few tips on the layout of the pages and template generally

Its tough grasping these issues at times but you must have an understanding of the key elements otherwise you may be inviting trouble. We thought we knew this business fairly well - we were wrong

The SEO world has moved on and become even more complex than it was before and it has also become incredibly expensive. Google is now bigger, cleverer and more sensitive to "cheating" its algorithm.

I was not particularly impressed by the expertise I encountered - most firms did not inspire confidence and yet still demanded huge fees. One firm quoted my £5-7500 per month!

Id appreciate any recommendations in this area

Our search for an expert on search continues!
Search engine optimisation - the price of visibility on the web

We have recently had a few consultations with a number of UK and US search engine optimisation (SEO) experts. For the uninitiated, seo is the art of making your website visible on the internet with a view to acquiring consistent levels of organic traffic

Its a complex area. It is also a "new" industry and as such there are good bad and ugly operators who can work wonders with your site - or likewise shaft you completely getting you banned by the big search engines (well ok I mean Google)

We needed advice on:

Good link resources - oneway links back to our site etc
A tip or two about internal linking (anchor text and navigation)
Ideas for fresh content (news etc)
A few tips on the layout of the pages and template generally

Its tough grasping these issues at times but you must have an understanding of the key elements otherwise you may be inviting trouble. We thought we knew this business fairly well - we were wrong

The SEO world has moved on and become even more complex than it was before and it has also become incredibly expensive. Google is now bigger, cleverer and more sensitive to "cheating" its algorithm.

I was not particularly impressed by the expertise I encountered - most firms did not inspire confidence and yet still demanded huge fees. One firm quoted my £5-7500 per month!

Id appreciate any recommendations in this area

Our search for an expert on search continues!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Claims regulation - painful but necessary

The personal injury sector is about to undergo radical change as the government attempts to drag the industry kicking and screaming into a new regulated environment.

The legal profession has been crying out for this and by April 07 the regulatory body will finally bare its teeth. Here is the DCA website - its hard to find on their main site so bookmark the link if required.

The regulations are designed to put a stop to sharp practices in the industry with genuine claimants losing hard earned compensation in payment of legal fees or expenses that should otherwise be recoverable from the defendants. Cases are captured by non qualified / regulated claims farmers and then sold on to solicitors desperate for the work. Kickbacks for medical reporting fees and insurance abound and the client can often (but not always) lose out.

There are many more issues at stake but lets just say Im in total agreement with the forthcoming changes.

My worry is that the changes will ironically hit some law firms more than they will the so called claims farmers. Many law firms dont market themselves and instead rely on being fed work from the claims farmers. Some law firms pay good money for the cases - £450-600 per accepted claim - and have no other sources for acquiring new business.

The claims farmers are rushing to obtain authorisation under the new regs. Most of the decent ones will prevail and may actually be empowered by the new rules. They will gain a form of legitimacy that up to now has eluded them.

Some claims firms will however not bother to seek regulation. They may be too small to cope with the fees or the onerus duties involved. They may be too damn dodgy to even give a sh!t. They wont like the fact that they cannot cold call in the way they did previously and they wont like the promise of a random inspection by the regulatory body (who have suggested they will take a peek from time to time)

This will create a sub layer of "bad" firms that will trade around the regs. This sub layer will still find desperate solicitors ready to accept their work - despite knowing that this is a breach of Law Society rules and completely illegal.

Its a supply and demand situation. Such firms may eventually die off, but my fear is that they will become re-sellers flogging their illegally acquired claims through legitimate regulated firms. Imagine that - crap firms still trading but selling on thru legit companies.

So what of the legitimate firms? There will be less competition. The big ones are going to become powerful. They will hold court in a similar way to, God forbid, TAG & Claims Direct

If you want a stocks option tip - there it is. The big claims companies will grow.

The law firms on the other hand have a major problem. The smaller firms will struggle to gain panel memberships. They will be faced by TESCO law fairly soon and this will eat away again at the opportunities available. There will simply be less business available for small to medium sized law firms in this sector.

So here are some thoughts for any law firm out there who might find themselves in the firing line. I dont seek to patronise nor do I pretend I am a soothsayer with a crystal ball. I do, however, know something about marketing and I work for a firm that has already grasped some of these issues:

1) The next few years are going to be very difficult - there will not be enough work - register that thought. Its a fact

2) Tesco law will eat away at everything. Check the Halifax legal services website which is a similar venture and equally frightening - just for a moment imagine the scale - the threat and the reality.

3) Market yourselves. If you dont know how to - learn. Get yourself a marketing consultant - recruit one even. It might be £30k-40k well spent

4) Provide a marketing budget - this will need to be over and beyond what you are currently
spending (although if your claims are no longer coming in - you can re-assign those funds)

5) Build a website that works and brings traffic. Learn about web advertising and organic search engine ranking. If you dont have a workable website - give your senior partner a slap

6) Look at other products - financial services for example - its a great niche seldom embraced by law firms. Use the "trust" factor most lawyers have - OK we may not be well liked in some quarters but we definitely out rank an IFA.

7) Look at staff levels - have you too many fee earners right now? Should you promote any more partners or associates that you may need to ditch next year?

8) If you are an up and coming solicitor - is your firm doing enough to protect your future? If not - MOVE ON. But before you do, why not make a few suggestions about managing some of these issues.

In summary - wake up and smell the coffee people
The times really are a changing!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Internet security and the all important client feedback / contact process

One of the enormous benefits for any law firm in having a web site is the opportunity to secure new business directly from the Internet.

There is nothing quite like receiving a fantastic new case via an online feedback form or e-mail. This is even more satisfying when the case has come to you, not through advertising, pay per click or affiliate marketing, but simply directly from the FREE organic search listings on say Google or Yahoo etc.

The problem that we have as a law firm is that we are not particularly clued up on the necessary security that is required to run an effective online business. For example, our feedback forms are built in PHP and they are very very bog standard in their complexity despite looking quite snazzy on page.

We have had to learn very quickly about the key security issues associated with feedback forms, because in recent weeks our network of legal sites have been attacked by various forms of spam or viruses. We have received enormous levels of link comment spam and have also suffered from something known as PHP injection security breaches. We seem to have been targeted and have had to resolve the problem urgently and effectively.

We have hired programmers to build more secure feedback forms in PHP, that rely on additional security features including image verification. You will have come across this before and whilst the mechanism can be a nuisance, you can guarantee as much as possible to the site visitor and prospective clients, that the information they provide will be safe. You can also prevent robots from infiltrating the code in the way that we have recently encountered.

One of the most effective methods of securing your feedback forms, is to use CAPTCHA coding. You can introduce this without drastically amending your current PHP or equivalent forms and the programming can be extremely cheap.

Another problem that almost everybody on the Internet will come across, is that the moment you post an e-mail address, you can guarantee yourself significant numbers of spam communications, once your address has been harvested. The only way around this problem, is of course to not hyperlink your e-mail address and perhaps work around this by using an image of the text / address. Some businesses will quote "at" instead of using an @ sign. None of these workrounds are very helpful for the site visitors but what else can you do? Id sure like to know.

It would be great to hear from any other law firms that have encountered security problems and managed to overcome them.

We are learning fast, but you get the impression that in the online world, nothing is very secure for very long.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Personal Injury small claims limit - £2500?

For those not too well versed in the key issues within the personal injury market, this year could be quite interesting for one simple reason. The "small claims" limits for personal injury claims is currently being reviewed and is subject to quite an intense debate.

To give you a bit of background, in order to have an entitlement to costs you must firstly achieve damages for pain and suffering that exceed £1000. This is not a considerable amount of money and with an average two to three month period of pain and suffering fetching around £800 to £1250, its is fair to say that insurers probably pay out more than they would like at the lower end of the market.

It must however be said that the average claim for soft tissue injuries will usually involve a period of pain and suffering that extends beyond three months and one could generally expect damages in the region of £1500 to £2500. I would be confident in saying that around 60-70% of the claims that my particular firm deals with, fall into this category.

Now defendant insurers obviously are not happy at having to pay costs on what they consider to be moderate to minimal personal injury claims. They would much rather put the legal representative out of the loop completely and deal with the injured claimant a personal level. They argue that the claimant will end up with the same result with or without a solicitor and the whole process will be quicker, more efficient and ultimately more rewarding for the injured party.

This frankly is complete nonsense.

I have great knowledge of the workings of personal injury claims departments within insurance companies. I know personally many people who work in such departments and have done for quite a few years. To say that insurers will treat claimants "fairly" really is stretching it.

Defendant insurer departments have various techniques to ensure that they pay as little as possible to injured accident victims. Many claims departments work according to strict rules in terms of reducing the cost of claims and every payment is made, generally is very tightly controlled. A "reserve" is put on each file and the case handler is expected to settle the claim UNDER the value of the reserve. Severe bollockings are dished out in some cases if they fail. They also use computer software to "value" claims and there is little or no room for negotiation. That is of course unless you are legally represented. With such representation, if the offer is unfair, you have the right to sue.

The insurers would make mincemeat of your average member of the public in this particular environment. Whilst they wish to reduce costs and save time, from their point of view this can only happen by removing the role of the solicitor from the process.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) have made a recommendation that the small claims court limit for personal injury claim should rise to £5,000. To put this into perspective, this would take in all claims for moderate to severe soft tissue injuries, minor fractures such as wrist fractures uncomplicated arm fractures and even simple like breaks.

The DCA who are currently reviewing the personal injury process proposed a figure of £2500 as a compromise. Whilst this is much more reasonable than the rather ridiculous £5,000 suggested by the ABI, it is still far too high.

The figure of £2500 probably represents around 60% of the personal injury market. Many law firms would go out of business and there would be far less availability for legal representation. In addition to this, there would be extreme difficulties for claimants trying to recover appropriate damages should their case fall within the £2500 limit. The level of personal injury damages which has remained unchanged for many years at the lower end, would reduce still further and the only winners here would be the insurers.

The debate continues and I could go on forever about the benefits of retaining legal services even at the lower end of the personal injury market. This is a completely biased view but I have had many years of experience in dealing with insurer claims departments and they really do only have one objective. That is to save as much money as possible on each and every single claim that they deal with. I have no problem with insurers saving costs and trimming processes to meet objectives but what is at stake here is the issue of fairness and justice for individuals that have suffered an injury.

As you can always tell I feel quite strongly about this subject and will write further updates during the course of the year. If there are any personal injury practitioners out there or any insurer friendly practitioners /staff, I would welcome your informal views on this.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Celeb Big Brother

In my attempts to stay young and in tune with the "street" I have been watching Celeb BB.

I am completely smitten with Shilpa Shetty who is probably the coolest, most composed, beautiful asian lady I have ever seen.

She deserves better than the treatment dished out by the venomous Jade Goody.

Shame that Jade's career is now over - she had done pretty wellfor a thick lass after being labelled the BB pig a few years ago. I liked her robustness and she was a fine example of how brains dont always matter

Now though I think she will be thrown to the wolves

As for the delighful Shilpa - not sure how she will fare but I hope we see more of her.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Decent legal websites

Aa little birdy tells me that I received a mention from Delia Venables of via her monthly newsletter. In return Im happy to provide alink to probably one the best UK legal websites out there.

Its a site that covers everything under the sun that comes under the "legal" banner. Take a look if you have a moment

This got me thinking about other USEFUL rather than self serving legal websites. There aint that many in all fairness.

A few more candidates would be: - which is a great selection of links on similar lines to the venables project - the CLS FAQ pages are also pretty decent on the subjects covered - legal services commission website - the official CAB site has always been a good one for general info. No more than you would expect really - Not a bad selection of useful links. Looks a bit directory-ish but works well enough for general legal info

Most of the rest are selling something whether it be their own services, legal documents or google ads.

Any more worthy of a mention?