Just not enough hours in the day

richardcropper Nov 6th, 2018

The uncertainties created by the 2017 change in the discount rate and the impact that has had on accommodation claims, compounded by legislative change in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Channel Islands, has created an unprecedented need for expert financial advice in personal injury claims.

As leaders in these areas, this has meant that the number of instructions currently being received by PFP for pre-settlement advice has materially increased.

This also comes at a time of political and economic uncertainty, making our post-settlement clients more nervous and in need of advice and reassurance.

Our looking after these clients is our priority.

We are, first and foremost, financial advisers to injured and vulnerable clients who deserve to be looked after to the very best of our ability. Our work as expert witnesses must come second to their needs.

As a result, we are having to face up to the need to limit our acceptance of pre-settlement instructions.

For some businesses, pricing is the weapon of choice when it comes to rationing scarce resources. For all of us, time is scarce, but it is obviously a key input for us when we are engaged in expert witness work. Equally, there are only so many hours available and each piece has to have enough time spent on it to do it justice.

So, we could ration by sharply raising our hourly rates, which would mean ditching Legal Aid work and only assisting the few willing to pay the new price. That does not sit well with us, but we need to do something.

After much thought, we have decided to make a start by only accepting new instructions from law firms that do not have ‘in-house’ financial services for their personal injury clients. Such firms now dominate the provision of legal services in the UK and already have the resources to provide a rounded service to their clients. We must assume they have safeguards in place to deal with any independence or conflicts of interest issues that might arise (as we understand that in-house advisers already provide advice in many cases).

Taking this step has not been easy.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to enjoy long-established and highly respectful relationships with such firms.

Additionally, we are acutely aware that our decision has consequences for Counsel too, if they would prefer to use our expert services in a case and we have to say ‘no’.

However, from our perspective, it limits the leakage of intellectual property to our direct competitors and us being used to transfer liability where it is considered too risky to keep it in-house. This has, we fear, been the case more recently, particularly in respect of advising upon the security of periodical payments.

We hope our decision is respected and understood. To quote one of the great journalists of the first half of the 20th Century, Herbert Bayard Swope,

“He [Swope] enunciated no rules for success, but offered a sure formula for failure: Just try to please everyone.”