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MIRROR MIRROR...

The pace of Alternative Business Structure licensing stepped up a gear this month, with big names like the AA and Saga putting their names into the hat. But Axa UK winced a bit when it imagined its reflection with a law firm moniker above the door.

Axa UK has been vehement in its objection to most things personal injury and when Paul Evans, the insurer's CEO spoke to the Financial Times recently (Axa hits at plan to offer legal services - FT 7th October) you got the impression the insurer would go down kicking and screaming, even if all its rivals choose to set up an ABS.

Responding to the news that Direct Line Group was considering providing legal services, Mr Evans said: "The reputational risks are high because we [the industry] are trying to simply replace referral fees with an alternative model which isn't in the interests of consumers. If there are loopholes they will be exploited. When you squeeze a balloon, the air goes somewhere else."

He conceded that Axa had been "commercially disadvantaged in the stance we have taken" and indicated the company might reconsider - possibly even applying branching into legal services itself - without further government reforms.

One of the industry's stalwarts left the stage this month, as Stephen Walker retired as chief executive of the NHSLA in August after 16 years. Never short of a word or two to impart of the system, Mr Walker told the Law Society Gazette (No more open chequebooks for expert witnesses 5th October, LSG) that joint instruction would become the norm and that the best experts would do well "not to spread themselves too widely."

Meanwhile, the man who might not be on every lawyer's Christmas card list, Richard Susskind, has been issuing further prophesy about how the sector will need to turn itself upside down. Via the medium of LegalFutures.co.uk (Susskind: firms starting to embrace new ways of working as 'legal factories' loom - 2nd October Legal Futures) and the first of a two part interview, Professor Susskind revealed that his travels amongst in-house counsel indicate a need for new roles in the legal profession and that firms will become "legal factories, legal production centres where the routine work is done in different places."

Funny, Premextra could have sworn that was what he said in his book...nevertheless it was juxtaposed nicely with a report by Alex Aldridge who attended a recent debate held by Riverview Law (Is the legal profession really on the verge of revolution? - 9th October, LegalCheek.com). In a slightly confusing crisscross of media who's who, Legal Futures' Neil Rose reportedly asked the question of Riverview "Have you convinced the partners at Slaughter and May [where profit per lawyer is £296,000] that their business model is broken?"

Premextra would like to know whether Prof. Susskind has done the same.