‘Caveat emptor’ – what next for access to justice in the UK now that the sale of law firms has started?

What price justice? What price fairness? What price independent legal advice?

 

Perhaps a better question is what value should we place on qualified legal advice delivered by independent, professionally qualified and rigorously (in this country at least) regulated solicitors.

 

We think it’s a question worth asking because the legal services market in the UK is on the threshold of a major shake up, the ramifications of which can only be guessed at…but actually we don’t need to guess, because the future of legal services is currently being shaped by a few key players in the US.

  

Attention all UK solicitors:

  

Legalzoom, the nemesis of US law firms  and Rocket Lawyer, have a lot of money, a lot of entrepreneurial flair and a lot of ambition. They are coming to a market near us soon.

 

They are going to ‘eat our lunch’ and it ain’t gonna be pretty, no siree Bob.

 

Make no mistake – they have no qualms whatsoever (and why should they?) about carving themselves a nice slice of the UK legal services market. 

 

So who should care?

 

Solicitors, obviously…but who really cares about solicitors other than other solicitors?

 

Actually our clients do, that’s who…and here’s why.

 

If independent solicitors wither on the vine and die off, then access to justice will be the real casualty and the British public will be the real victims – not the beneficiaries….caveat emptor!! 

 

Before it’s too late, independent solicitors need to get on the front foot and fast on this issue. If the British public isn’t to be hoodwinked into believing that the brave new world of ‘anyone can do legal stuff’ is a good thing, solicitors, the people with the knowledge and the tradition of ethical, professional service – ABSOLUTELY MUST GET THEIR MESSAGE ACROSS.

 

…and as for the anticipated legal services invasion from across the pond; well, ‘grow a pair’ and prepare to fight for survival.

 

Nobody owes us a living but we owe it to our clients to stay in business and defend their legal rights.

 

What price strategies for the survival and growth of independent solicitors?

 

We think that developing a new way of thinking about the business of being in business as a lawyer is the only alternative to Alternative Business Structures…

 

We intend to be around for a long time yet and we hope you do too.

One in five construction workers at risk says UCATT

 

(Photo: UCATT)

In a hard-hitting new report, UCATT, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, has found that almost one in every five construction workers is now classified as ‘at risk’.

 

Based on a review of the current enforcement regime and interviews with construction workers, ‘The hidden workforce building Britain’ says many are working in ‘slavery like’ conditions, wait in car parks to get work as day labourers and are typically employed in dangerous and unregulated work.

 

The union is calling for the creation of a single independent labour inspectorate, which would cover all industrial sectors.

 

The report argues that this beefed up body, which would police all employment standards, should have sufficient resources to dramatically increase its levels of proactive inspections. UCATT says this would ‘ensure that there is a major crackdown on exploitative employers.

 

The union’s acting general secretary, George Guy, commented: ‘It is time that government and employers accept the unpalatable truths about how the construction industry operates. Only effective regulation by a strong enforcement regime will end exploitation in the construction industry.’

 

Given this government’s attitude towards health and safety in the UK workplace and the current economic climate there is no chance of a new regulatory body being set up to monitor the construction industry labour force. This means that everyone with an interest in construction worker safety has to be extra vigilant and relentlessly ‘on guard’ to check for construction site dangers and hazards to worker’s health.

 

HSE please take note…

 

Bonnar & Company specialises in helping construction workers achieve justice and fair compensation for injury and industrial illness caused by working on site. We work exclusively on behalf of direct employees, sub-contractors, the self- employed and apprentices.

What aisle are the lawyers on mate? – ‘Tesco law’ open for business…

(Photo: Alamy)

 

Is it a good thing that banks and supermarkets are to be able to sell consumer legal services in England and Wales for the first time following a change in the law?

 

Is it a good thing that bailed out banks and greedy discount retailers can get their hands on law firms…or any new business for that matter?

 

Is it a good thing that large institutions with financial muscle and their own agendas will be able to exert influence on a previously independent and regulated sector?  

 

The man from the government (Mr. Djanogly) he say yes…

 

However, we are not so sure he has the first clue about what he is talking about and we are absolutely certain he is not thinking about protecting the legal rights of the ordinary citizen.  

 

The government says the new Legal Services Act will offer more choice and better value for the public and claims that law firms will benefit from investment and allow them to explore new markets.

 

Now, putting the old jokes aside for a minute, we think there are enough lawyers out there to provide consumers with a choice. It’s not as if people are struggling to find a solicitor, is it?.

 

With choice comes value for money. As anyone with an ‘ounce of nous’ knows, when there are a lot of service providers, consumers do well. When the number of providers falls, as it will do if ‘supermarket law’ consolidates legal services under the one brightly lit stainless steel roof, consumers get a worse deal, a much worse deal. 

 

The government says the change would encourage economic growth in the industry and raise the profile of the UK as a first-class legal services market. Hmmm…we thought the UK was already a first class legal services market.

 

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said it was a “landmark day” for the legal industry.

 

(That’s true, if you define landmark as ‘charter for profiteering at the public’s expense.’ )

 

“Our legal services are already rated among the best in the world, used by millions of people around the globe as well as in the UK, and these changes will set them up to move to new heights. They will enable firms to set up multi-disciplinary practices and provide opportunities for growth,” he said.

 

Eh? What? How??

 

“Potential customers will find legal services become more accessible, more efficient and more competitive.” Ye gods. The asylum keys have indeed been handed to the inmates 

 

Under new trading bodies, known as Alternative Business Structures (ABS), lawyers will be able to work in mixed-practices offering financial, legal and other advice, or be based at different kinds of businesses. Well we simply just don’t see a surge of demand from the profession for this new ‘freedom.’ 

 

The government believes that legislation and regulation has restricted the management, ownership and financing of firms providing legal services for hundreds of years. Well, duh? The regulation of the legal profession is the single most effective guarantee that ensures professional standards and ethical conduct for all consumers.

 

Do you think that the burning access to justice issue for the consumer is the financing of legal services?  We don’t either.

 

We echo the comments of Clive Sutton, of the Solicitors Sole Practitioners Group, urged the government to reconsider the “untried and untested innovation” which he said had only previously been adopted by two states in Australia.

 

He said: “The government seem unconcerned that the introduction of Alternative Business Structures puts at risk the independence of legal advice, via the profit interests of commercial owners.”

 

Despite the title Tesco Law, the supermarket has said it has “no current plans to offer legal services”. But the Co-operative was among the first stores to say it was interested in offering a legal business.

 

Similar legislation was passed in Scotland in October 2010 when MSPs at Holyrood backed its Legal Services Bill.

 

You can comment below or record your opinion on our facebook page – http://facebook.com/bonnarandcompanysolicitors

Claiming compensation for personal injury. Myth v Reality -Take 2

Another insurance industry ‘compensation culture’ myth.

 

 

Myth  

 

Most people who claim compensation for personal injury are just looking for a source of extra money in a recession – they should just ‘grin and bear it.’  For people read ‘the undeserving injured…’ 

 

 

Reality  

 

The key issue for the injured person and their family is whether they can afford not to seek damages, particularly if they are unable to continue working or have to change jobs as a result of their accident.

 

In any event, the amount of money awarded is far from being a ‘lottery’ win. In the UK damages in personal injury cases are based on very precise calculations, refined over many years, which reflect the extent of the injury and the earning capacity of the victim.

 

The process is designed with one aim in mind – to put the injured party back to where they were before the accident. Thus a twisted ankle claim will not attract a multi-million pound sum, whereas a brain-injured survivor of a road traffic accident might well receive a very large sum of money to pay for a lifetime of medical care.

 

Insurance companies know this very well and they are not about to sanction overly generous compensation claim payouts under any circumstances. The idea that hurt and injured people are scamming the system and receiving ‘over the odds’ payouts is absolutely ludicrous – but that doesn’t stop The Daily Mail reporting it as fact…

 

We welcome your thoughts on the ‘compensation culture’ and would like to know if you agree with us that the vast majority of accident compensation claims in the UK are made by trustworthy people seeking justice and fairness for themselves and their families.

Claiming compensation for personal injury – Myth v Reality

There has been a lot of recent press coverage aimed at perpetuating the myth of a compensation culture. Much of this PR effort has been orchestrated by the insurance industry and swallowed ‘hook, link and sinker’ by the government .

 

We would like to redress the balance and provide a reasoned argument in support of the right of hurt and injured people to seek fair compensation.

 

    

Myth 

 

We live in a compensation culture where people sue at the drop of a hat for even the most trivial injuries.

 

Reality

  

In order to make a successful claim for personal injury compensation an accident victim has to prove that they have been hurt or injured. Unless the evidence supports the claim the case has no chance of success, ever, period. Spurious damages claims may grab the headlines but they will never see the light of day in court. Anyone can claim compensation but it’s the follow-through that counts and the papers never report on the half-baked claims that never succeed.

 

We are only concerned here about real people who have suffered real injuries.

 

The fact is that many people still don’t realise that they have a right to claim compensation if they have been hurt or injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault.

 

We know from research carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau that over 60% of people entitled to make a claim for compensation fail to do so. From our own experience, we find that many people who go on to become clients of the firm are unsure about making a claim for a variety of reasons. It’s our job to help accident victims and their families understand their rights and guide them through the legal process.

 

We understand that some people are affected by the myth of a ‘compensation culture’ and may be concerned about what family, friends and even collagues at work will think if they make a claim.

 

For instance, passengers injured in a car driven by a family member or a friend can become distressed by the very thought of seeking damages and workers can be unwilling to claim against their employers for fear of reprisals or victimisation.

 

The reality is that hurt and injured people have a hard enough challenge coming to terms with the effects of their accident without having to deal with the added and unnecessary stress of worrying about paying their bills and coping with their rehabilitation. 

 

We would like to know what you think about the ‘compensaton culture’. We believe that accident victims are coming under increased pressure not to claim compensation and that many are being bullied into accepting low-value, unfair offers from insurance companies. Do you agree?