In 2013 following the introduction of The legal aid sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act it was envisaged that the number of claims being brought for personal injury would reduce over time. Lord Jackson’s bonfire of costs, along with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act seeking to curtail civil claims, were seen as clear attempts to reduce litigation in the UK.
As a natural consequence of this we have seen a large number of those firms which represent claimants close or else become the subject of SRA intervention. It is not beyond the realms of foreseeability that those firms can reduce the number of their lawyers while demanding those lawyers who remain work harder. The effect often being unnecessary negligence.
These causative factors have coalesced to see in the last two years the closure of Messrs. Isaac Abrahams, Asons, Coops (Asons reincarnation), Newmans, Mellor Hargreaves to mention but a few. Given the further reforms proposed by Rupert Jackson this month it is certain that further closures and interventions will follow.
Coops: The Second Intervention.
In last month’s edition of the disease review we reported that the SRA had intervened in Coops, the law firm which took over where Asons left off. We also reported that Stephensons Solicitors LLP had been appointed on behalf of Coops. Now we in turn consider the impact of the second intervention on Coops’ clients. Here at BLM we have nearly a 100 cases where Coops/Asons were on record for the claimants. It now appears that a large number of those claimants are unrepresented while Stephensons Solicitors LLP decide what to do with the cases. Particularly in those cases where directions have been handed down, this places those unrepresented claimants in a difficult position, as without legal representation their cases will still proceed on towards trial, potentially with breaches of court orders. Also, it appears the majority of those claimants have not even been notified that Coops have been intervened by the SRA.
Naturally, we are unable to advise any of the former clients of Coops but wish to do our best to ensure that they receive fair and just treatment.
The approach we at BLM have taken so far, is to notify claimants in the matters on which we act that their solicitors have been shut down by the SRA and to suggest to them, they ought seek further legal advice. We have also been notifying the Court of the position and where possible seeking stays of proceedings, to give claimants time to find new representation.
This second intervention is also likely to have an impact on insurers who are seeking to settle claims or whom have settled claims but are seeking to negotiate costs as it is now unclear to whom any costs should be paid.
As a practical point, all file handlers should note that in case where a single joint expert (“SJE”) is instructed, those SJEs are entitled to recover the full amount of their fees from either instructing solicitors as liabilities for SJEs are joint and several. With this in mind, if you have instructed an SJE in a matter where Coops were acting, you should provide immediate instructions to hold off carrying out any further work or incurring any further costs until it is clear that the matter will proceed and notify the court that you are doing the same.