The old days where a client consulted his family firm of solicitors have long gone. It is impossible to watch daytime TV without being bombarded by adverts such as “Phone Bob for a claim – we put you in touch with our expert panel of solicitors”, but Bob doesn’t tell you that his panel of solicitors are simply there because they have agreed to contribute to his advertising budget. Often that is the only vetting that there is.
Why should you care about that?
It’s simple. Firms of solicitors are commercial organisations. They have to make a profit. Having that profit eroded by a hefty upfront advertising fee operate as a disincentive on how much work they are prepared to do before it becomes unprofitable. In many cases now the solicitor’s fee is fixed by court rules as to how much can be recovered from an opponent. Frequently the sum is very small indeed. Would you want your solicitor to cut corners or use non-qualified staff so as to bring the work in under budget?
It is the same with insurance panels. Many insurers offer family legal protection in the home or car policies but unlawfully stipulate that you have to choose their own panel solicitor. Why? The insurer used to receive a hefty fee for recommending the solicitors in the first place. This is now unlawful but many insurers are getting around the ban by linking themselves to, or buying up, firms of solicitors.
IF YOU HAVE LEGAL EXPENSES INSURANCE YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR CHOICE OF SOLICITOR FROM THE VERY OUTSET – check this link to some 1990 regulations and see for yourself!
European case law has determined that this applies from the start – many insurers refuse to ackowledge that.
Don’t be fooled. Always instruct a solicitor who is a personal injury specialist local enough to you to arrange a meeting with that solicitor from time to time. The solicitor you instruct should be a panel member of the Personal Injury Panel of the Law Society.