Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How is the Credit Crunch affecting the legal world?

This isnt a heart felt meaningful conversation, just a bullet point PERSONAL opinion from a usually tetchy but recently quite chipper old buzzard (thats me by the way):

PERSONAL INJURY - Frankly, times have never been better. More people want to claim, (sometimes for the wrong reasons), more people are aware of their rights and those that arent - use the web to get educated. Happy days!!

HOUSING LAW - Good times! Repo's are sadly on the way up and this is a great sector to be in for the privileged few who inhabit this strange world

DIVORCE - Quiet time of year for Family lawyers usually but come January, credit crunch or no, its open season. Surprisingly, the feedback Im getting from Family lawyers is that the Crunch really isnt impacting on business volumes significantly.

WILLS, PROBATE - Pardon the obvious pun but our Wills dept is as dead as a Dodo. Before long Im afraid people will be let go. Wills are a luxury not a necessity and new clients are simply not being found. You can only flat line for so long without cost cutting, Probate fortunately tends to be a steady sector, people dont stop dying just because were in a Crunch.

EMPLOYMENT LAW - Busy as hell with people getting sacked / made redundant / victimised etc. Our employment boys are thriving but again, as with PI, this is a reflection of the negativity brought by the Crunch. Good times, but grim work.

COMMERCIAL LAW - Mergers, Acquisitions, partnerships aplenty. Commercial / Corporate lawyers never go hungry - not the good ones anyway.

INSOLVENCY - Booming sector, in our firm at least. Absolutely huge volumes coming through and increasingly, people are happy to deal with lawyers rather than Debt Sharks

CONVEYANCING - Ive saved the worst till last. Pity the poor sods who chose conveyancing for a career. Lets be honest, weve had lean times before but this is as bad as anyone Ive spoken to can remember. One of our chaps has had 40 years in the business and has never known anything like it. There is no good news, there is no advice one can give other than get out now and re-train. We may have 2 years of utter drudgery ahead of us in the housing market. Dont sit it out waiting for the axe to fall.

Help your fellow lawyer to survive...dont assume your job is safe.....look at retraining...look at working for a larger firm...dont shaft yourself by being an arse at the Christmas party.....and FINALLY

Dont let the buggers get you down!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The MoJ are a bag of sh!te

Forgive the slightly crude title but the MoJ really are a complete waste of space.

We personal injury practitioners and indeed our rivals in the defendant world have been waiting patiently for news of consultation process for personal injury reform. Reform which has been subject to much debate and both sides of the divide agree - is very much needed.

Our erstwhile guardians at the MoJ have been sitting on the consultation paperwork for over a year and continually issued one statement after another explaining that delays were to be expected given the weight of the issues to hand. We were promised something constructive and hopefully practical before too long and of course as you do, we waited patiently for their feedback.

Well now its arrived and jeeez what a complete - I'll say it again - bag of Sh!te.

RTA claims are well catered for within the "response" but with:

- Referral fees left wide open,
- Rehabilitation buried,
- Uncertainty over "After the Event" insurance and the right to recover premiums
- No measures to clamp down on Insurers "TP capture" methods
- No firm implementation details
- No guidance on the key CFA issues
- No implementation of the "Liability" rule where a Fast Track admission is binding
- No leadership
- No independence of thought
- I could go on

...this really is a poor show.

As usual its the claimants who will suffer from the lack of foresight from the political plodders at the MoJ.

A golden opportunity to sort the system out before we steam headlong into the brave new world of Alternative Business Structures and "Netto Law" has sadly been missed.

What a bunch of muppets

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tough times for anyone involved in Conveyancing

These are troubled times and many industries are feeling the pinch with the credit crunch in full swing.

People who know far more than I about these things claim this is only the start.

My own sector - personal injury claims - is immune to recession. If anything such financial downturns create greater demand. Not so in other legal sectors.

Im sorry to say that conveyancing has been badly hit with the rapid slowdown in the housing market. I have many friends in the industry who deal with conveyancing and other non contentious areas of law.

Every week more news creeps out regarding law firm redundancies with conveyancing the first department that gets trimmed. Even top dogs are not safe - particularly those that failed to anticipate the downturn or have a plan for dealing with a rapidly changing market.

With conveyancing - its a simple supply and demand business and right now - there is no demand.

Some sectors / specialities produce consistent business levels even in bad times. This could include but is by no means limited to, Personal injury, Criminal law [choke] Wills and Probate, Insolvency, Employment law and Commercial law.

There's a lesson to be learned here for anyone looking to come into law. Choose your niche and your law firm very carefully.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why not all claimants are "money grabbers"

A recent survey by legal superpower Russell Jones and Walker (RJW) revealed predictably that most people believe that personal injury claimants are "Money grabbers" and that the UK is heading for a US style compensation explosion.

This kind of crap was peddled back in 1999 /2000 when Claims Direct -CD- were in their pomp. (CD as a brand is now owned by RJW as it happens). Back then it was all doom and gloom so far as the PI world was concerned. Claims Direct were about to float on the stock market and the liberal do gooders came out of the woodwork to stir up negativity about the personal injury business.

This was a very important time for the industry because in 2000 the concept of "No win No fee" was formally introduced into English & Welsh law and legal aid was all but abolished for personal injury cases (medical negligence being the only type of claim now publicly funded). At the time I have to say that most in the know feared that we would rapidly go downhill transforming a once honourable profession into an industry that would be largely despised, inviting frivolous claims in vast quantities just to make a fast buck.

The demise of CD and of course The Accident Group changed all that. The legal system basically scuppered their business models mainly because they were based on excessive ancillary fees and admin expenses underpinned by dirt bag claims. The cleansing process (which involved a series of precedent setting court cases) was disasterous for the two businesses but cathartic for the industry.

The reason I raise this again now is that the RJW survey reveals that public opinion is no different now to what it was in 2000 despite the cleansing process we have undergone.

People generally hate PI lawyers and those that try to make money on the back of their claim. Most of the haters are those who have never and would never (in their eyes) make a claim.

One of the most common remarks I hear from claimants is "Im not one for making claims" or "I never thought Id do something like this"

It always makes me laugh because you would think that they were being asked to jerk off in public or something.

Now this leads me back to the central question. Are people who make claims really money grabbers?

Well here's my take

Its very much dependent on what sort of accident you are dealing with

Because of the way insurers plug personal inury claims (they get huge kick backs for passing them on to panel solicitors) I would say at least 40% are "dirty" claims that are made by people on the make. The rest are genuine and deserve compensation.

EL (Employers liability)
Here the dirty % is far less simply because - when you claim against your employer for an injury suffered at work - its a pretty tough thing to do. You are slinging mud at the guy who pays your wages. Not easy and it definitely not for the money grabbers

That said money grabbers who hate their boss - well thats a different story. Id say around 20% of claims are dirty

PL (Public liability)
This legal area incorporates the much maligned and extremely difficult to win tripping claims and similar case types. Here your solicitors are more likely to weed out wastrels before they get to first base. Dirty quota 20%

In real terms - most people are genuine and only RTA claims involve a heavily skewed % of money grabbers. The system has allowed people in that sector to flourish and the same insurers who whinge about rising claims costs are also more than happy to take a slice of a referral fee (up to £500) for passing new cases to selected solicitors.

My final thought on this is quite simply that NO GENUINE PERSON ever wants to make a claim. But if you get hurt in an accident your view on the morals of making such a claim will change immediately. You will make a claim and lets be reasonable - why the hell should you feel bad about that?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Interesting times ahead...??

I have decided after all these years to take a quantum leap into the unknown.

After a career steeped in tradition and loyalty to those who are to be obeyed. Decades of doing a solid job without breaking any rules or really stretching my boundaries. Opting for security and safe career options rather than dangerous or even slightly risky ones - the time has come for a change.

The time has come to live life on the darker side. Break balls. Court controversy at the expense of convention. Take a new path to riches and glory or fall down the pit into hellfire and damnation.

Im talking of course about switching to criminal law.


Im actually talking about starting my own practice - with a little help from my friends. The plan is as follows:

I have enough contacts and marketing know-how to generate decent levels of new business. I do so now and have a proven track record. Im a business generator not just a fee earner

I have a solid financial record / credit history and will have no trouble getting a loan or overdraft to carry me through the diffiult first 12 months

Ive helped grow a new law business before from scratch and have experience of the issues involved

I have a select band of brothers who will join me on this venture. They are younger, cleverer and very very keen to get a slice of practice pie that will almost certainly never be offered elsewhere.

There are one or two other plus points but I wont flog the list to death. In summary - its a goer.

Im piecing together a few more components which will go some way to making my mind up about whether I will actually take a shot at it. Im doing cartwheels regarding the fall out that will occur and the fact that my world will literally change overnight.

Moving from easy street to life in the real world is not going to be easy.

More to follow...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Where'd February go??

Its a funny month February. For me this year Feb's key moments involved:

Half term
Valentines Day
Barack Obama
The earthquake

I almost failed to blog for a whole month as well for the first time in 2 years (and this is a piss poor effort)

Funniest moment was when the wife woke me to announce the arrival of the earthquake - to which i replied dont be so bleeding ridiculous - then the photo frame hanging over the bed fell on my pillow narrowly missing an artery.

Never doubt the word of a good woman - however ridiculous it sounds - she's probably right

A man is incomplete until he's married -
then he's finished

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A new broom sweeps cleanest - but and old one gets into the corners!

10 reasons why age & experience count for an awful lot in LAW

Im bigging up the forty-somethings here because we are sometimes in need of a little luvvin. The young pups walk away with plaudits just for chewing a bone the right way so occasionally you have to remind yourselves just why older is better when it comes to law.

1) Long memories
Its an obvious one but lets face it - when your good at the job and always willing to learn - a mature lawyer will generally pee all over a youngster. There is nothing better in a meeting than unearthing a gem of a case law buried in the dark recesses of your mind whilst the yoof tries flicking thru his / her text books to locate it.

2) Patience
You learn that fast isnt always good. Speed can sometimes slow you down in the long game and cause errors that you may never recover from. Oldies dont rush - time is money, remember?

3) Status & Gravitas
The yoof have no status or gravitas - Fact. You cant buy it off the shelf let me tell ya. Well maybe occasionally.

4) Politics
Its a fact that to get on in law you really have to be a smart politician. That means you keep an eye on the power base in the practice, say the right thing at the right time and make key decisions at key moments. Dont work hard all year round at this game only to end up shagging the office pirhana round the back of the nightclub at Christmas. The older the lawyer - the better the politician - guaranteed.

5) The real world
Oldies live in the real world. Weve been kicked a few times and survived. Weve had our bits chewed and yet we remain resoloute. We know bullshit when we hear it and we know where to draw the line in terms of our abilities. Yoofs understandly are like toddlers who have yet to touch something hot or taste something nasty. Staying with the toddler analogy - just because youve managed to pee straight into the potty a few times doesnt mean you wont piss on the floor once in a while. Stay grounded and keep it real kids

6) Kids suck up
Oldies dont suck up to management. There's no point you see - weve either reached the level at which you get sucked up to or weve dropped down below to the level where you dont need to bother sucking up any longer. Life when sucking up is no longer a necessity - can be very sweet indeed.

7) Clients love an oldie to handle their case - Fact
They really do - clients love gravitas when it comes to who handles their cases. They dont mess oldies around either. On the other side of the coin however, one glimpse of a pimply yoofs mugshot on the firms website can be enough to turn many a clients stomach. You often hear "he looks much younger than he sounds" which is client code for "youve landed me with a bleeding hoodie"

8) Oldies bill more £££ - Fact
Bit harsh but a truism nonetheless.

9) Oldies dont do lunch
Or to put it another way we dont see the need to spend every second of the allotted hour doing lunch just because its in the contract. We dont mess around reading tabloids or looking at Youtube (maybe the odd blawg though?). As soon as our ass hits the seat - we work. We do have the occasional power lunch though - they are worth the effort. See 4)

10) The older you are - the more you appreciate 21st century LAW
Law is better - bigger - smarter - more accessible - more focused - more progressive today than it has ever been before. Its the truth kids ------- BELIEVE!

That last bit relates of course to CIVIL law. Everyone knows criminal law has gone to the dogs thanks to the reformers.

If this post dont get some of those pesky kids yapping and snapping - I dont know what will!