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Do these figures speak for themselves?

Any article with a headline that begins ‘lawyers cash in…’ elicits a sigh or a wry smile from most people. Everyone knows that lawyers always get paid in the end and Dickens showed us this in Bleak House – thank god for the BBC version.
To a large extent this story by Rosa Prince is absolutely right, legal fees have formed an ever larger part of the overall compensation bill for civil litigation since the Woolf reforms which removed personal injury claims from the legal aid process aside from one or two exceptions.
I suppose the difference now is we are heading towards election year so the Conservatives have ‘revealed’ these stats to the Telegraph.
I’m not niave enough to ask why the Telegraph would write a piece like this; their agenda is clear. But there is some ignorance of the wider picture which places this story into question and makes it easy to pick holes in so that’s what I’m going to do.
The numbers are staggering and not without precedent; One in five claims against the NHS results in ‘the lawyers’ receiving more ‘compensation’ (fees) than the actual claimant. Yup, that’s right and it’s a fact across the wider personal injury system too; frequently insurers find themselves liable for costs that vastly exceed the damages awarded to claimants.
Nevertheless, this report pays John Major-sized lip service to the work being carried out to mitigate the problem. It chooses instead to report how this would never have happened under the tories, rather than pointing to the review of civil justice costs currently underway by Lord Justice Jackson, or the ongoing Ministry of Justice review of personal injury claims reform which will see a new fixed costs regime introduced for road traffic accidents.
The fact is lawyers are making hay while the sun shines and no one can blame them for that. The market enabling them to rack up these costs was instigated originally under the Major government anyway so that the burden of civil legal aid could be removed from the taxpayer. Pot/Kettle/Black?
These statistics are compelling and it’s right to take issue with a system that is clearly under pressure from a cohort that knows how to extract cost while providing little value in return.
I have pointed out two major reviews/reforms that are currently underway and were ignored in this article. So what is the opposition’s silver bullet? ‘A fact finding process to avoid litigation’. I know we don’t want to get bogged down by detail, but that’s pathetic.

About Ralph Savage (137 Articles)
Insurance and legal journalist Ralph Savage has written extensively for the financial and professional services sectors, most notably as News Editor of Post Magazine. He ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, insurers, accountants and brokers.

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