Before I answer such an important question – should I change my lawyer? – it’s essential that I explain my background.
Who am I?
I qualified as a solicitor in 2007 . Five years ago, I set-up my own specialist personal injury law firm. Prior to that, I used to work for what was probably the largest personal injury firm in the country (who were brilliant at personal injury law). My ambition was to run the best personal injury firm in the country – and I think that we are on our way to achieving that!
As a new law firm in 2012, of course I had no cases! Zero. Zilch. I could therefore provide my injured clients with the specialist, intensive and caring service that they needed, during one of the darkest periods of their life. Quite early on – 2012-2013 – it became clear that my firm had a substantial advantage over some of the factory law firms. You know the factory law firm-type: a firm mostly rammed with unqualified staff; who acted like a call centre; and who usually had an arrangement with insurance companies or another large organisation which supplied the majority of their clients.
Back then (and it has only accelerated since), desperate personal injury clients, who were receiving a dreadful service from call centre claims managers, who ask – “What’s your reference number?” – when they speak to their clients, were eager to switch solicitors. I also realised that most lawyers are often wary of a client who wants to switch lawyers. I wasn’t scared of disgruntled clients because usually they had a reason to be angry.
As a new, nimble law firm – and also because I wanted to give an amazing level of service – I started specialising in representing injured people who wanted to leave their large law firms to move to my boutique law practice. Most lawyers thought I was mad: they were wrong.
Life as a paralegal
What has become crystal clear is that, very, very regretfully, many unqualified law students who were looking for a training contract (the two years of the on-the-job training a law student must do to qualify as a solicitor) had been hoovered-up by these large factory firms, because these were the firms that would take on unqualified staff. Not only were these paralegals often poorly trained, very often they didn’t even like personal injury law! It was – and is – a dreadful set of circumstances for clients and paralegals alike.
Changes to personal injury law
In April 2013, personal injury law was radically overhauled by the Government (essentially at the behest of the insurance lobby). From April 2013, personal injury law has become less lucrative for the lawyers. As a result, in order for these law firms to produce substantial profits for the law firm partners, they have needed to pay their staff less and to ensure that their staff have a ridiculously high number of claims. On top of this, many of these firms demanded that their lawyers had very high cost targets, and high settlement rates.
If you want to know what it is really like to work at the firm who might be representing you, type the name of the firm into this website: https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Reviews/index.htm.
My job interviews with the paralegals
I know what life is like as a paralegal at some of these large firms because I have interviewed numerous paralegals who want to qualify at my firm as a solicitor. During these job interviews I ask the paralegals some very basis questions about the law. It is really worrying just how little some of the paralegals know about the basics of their job. It usually isn’t their fault, though.
One of the paralegals told me that he was running 600 Road Traffic Accident Personal Injury claims. That’s frankly ridiculous.
The benefits of switching solicitors
I remember the first client that I who was bold enough to leave a large, well-known solicitors firm in order to be represented by my firm (which was just me, five years ago!). Let’s call him Mr D.
Brilliant Mr D knew that his injury claim wasn’t worth £15,000, as was valued by his large firm, because his injury was such that he was unable to work his demanding manual job, between the ages of 64-65 i.e. he had to retire earlier than he wanted to. His gut told him to find another lawyer.
Mr D moved to Truth Legal. I settled his claim for £45,000 – three times more than his other firm valued his claim. I’m forever indebted to Mr D for his decision to trust me with his case, because he opened my eyes as to how poor some of the legal advice was from our competitors. And for me to treble what the other firm thought the claim was worth you would think that I needed to do something amazing. I didn’t. I just did the basics right. I’m no brain surgeon. But I know what I’m doing.
I do take no pleasure in highlighting some of the problems in the personal injury sector – a sector which I love – but I am committed to providing excellent legal advice (just as most solicitors are) and feel duty-bound to tell it like it is.
Should you switch solicitors?
The answer to this question is “it depends”.
My strong advice is that, if you are wondering whether to change legal representatives, then you must obtain more information from the firm that you are currently using and, also, ask questions of the firms whom you may move to.
Here are my recommended questions to your existing lawyers:
- Is the “lawyer” handling your case a qualified solicitor or legal executive. Check them out here: http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/?Pro=False.
- Ask your “lawyer” how many claims they are running at the same time
- Ask how many claims like yours your representative has run and won before.
- Find out how much Continuous Professional Development your lawyer does each week i.e. do they stay on top of all the developments in personal injury law.
- Discover how your lawyer is supervised by his or her boss.
- Find out whether the same lawyer will handle your case throughout every stage. My recommendation is that if your lawyer has to change as your claim goes through various stages, then you are probably being looked after by a very junior person.
- Ask the lawyer what their highest settlement was and what their average settlement is. If you have a serious injury, then you won’t want to be represented by someone who doesn’t normally handle high value claims.
- Discover if there are any key dates which are about to expire, such as the limitation period or any court deadlines, as you may want to stay where you are to ensure that important dates aren’t missed.
And when considering moving your claim to a new law firm, you need to ask similar questions to the potential new firm.
In addition, ask the potential new firm what funding agreement they are likely to offer you. For example, will they offer you a No Win, No Fee agreement and, if so, what deduction are the new firm likely to take from your compensation to pay the legal fees.
Once you have all the information from the various firms, use your head and your gut to make the right decision for you. Remember: this is your very important claim: you need the right lawyer. Do you even like the person who is representing you?
If you do want to switch your case, then moving your injury claim to another law firm is relatively straightforward, so don’t worry too much about how it will work as the lawyers will usually work it out amongst themselves. Your new firm will advise you all about it.
In confidence, if you want to have a chat with me or one of my specialist personal injury solicitors regarding moving your claim, please get in touch and we will have a no-obligation consultation. We promise that we will not contact your existing solicitors unless you ask us to do in writing.
Good luck with your case!