In just over a week we will see the first of the devastating changes that will soon hit the legal profession . After 1st April clients will no longer be able to recover all of their legal costs from insurers and could lose anything up to 25% of their damages. Lawyers across the country are frantically trying to get their clients signed up to agreements before the big day arrives.
And that will just be the start. By the end of April we will have the massive cuts to legal costs that have been the dominant theme of this blog for the last few weeks –
The fight will continue but where can claimants expect to find help? The BBC Breakfast programme reported on the changes this morning. The item began encouragingly with a brief interview with a client who was very positive about the legal advice he had received. But then it all went downhill. The only commentary came from the ABI who simply explained why they want costs reducing. The spokesman was given a free rein and was not even pressed to say what premium reductions there might be.
One thing that was notable was the insistence of the BBC in talking about ‘no win no fee’ lawyers, as if this is some new breed of lawyer, and a rather distasteful one at that.
The whole idea of a no win no fee case was created by government. It was introduced by the Conservatives in the mid 1990s and then hugely expanded by New Labour who wanted to get rid of legal aid for accident claims. These agreements are therefore the only way that anybody apart from the wealthiest can obtain access to justice. Lawyers have worked within that system to do their best for clients. There is no other way available. The media would have us believe that the idea was dreamt up by lawyers to make people pay higher insurance premiums!
What is clear then is that ordinary people cannot expect to get much help from the media.
But there some initiatives developing that will keep this high on the agenda. One is the campaign called Save the Legal Industry headed by Manchester Solicitor Martin Coyne. The campaign highlights the job losses across the sector as many firms will be forced to close or make dramatic cuts. As many as 2500 could find themselves out of work.
On its own this is unlikely to change minds.
But I do feel that everybody affected needs to make as much noise as possible to highlight the injustice caused by moves which only benefit insurers.