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EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING

Much like the corresponding period in 2012, the opening weeks of this year have witnessed frenzied speculation about new launches, new regimes, ABS plans; and for the first time ever 'a stinky hat'.

For the personal injury sector the first week back from holiday began with some difficult news as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers found the majority of practices expecting to make cuts over the course of 2013. A report from APIL revealed how 118 out of 155 practices confirmed they were considering reducing their head count, while one in six said they would stop doing PI work under £25 000 if the proposals remain unchecked.

It's become clear that the period up until Jackson Day will be a hectic one for industry stories, as not only the industry trade media but mainstream press tackle the issue and what it means for consumers.

Right on call and with a stereotypical display of outrage, the Mail on Sunday went for the jugular as the penny finally dropped about how insurers may choose to merge with or buy law firms in a post ABS world. So often the victim of these remonstrations, Admiral Insurance took the brunt first of  this news report, before a columnist  went one better and said '…business had managed to pull the stinkiest rabbit out of an increasingly putrid hat'.

Meanwhile, back at big school, it was gloves off on costs as both APIL and the Motor Accident Solicitors Society did as promised and commenced judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Justice's proposed new fixed fees regime. The banning of referral fees had also been a potential battleground for judicial review as  we reported back in November 2011, but the industry has clearly fixed its gaze on the cost of doing business through the portal.

In a joint statement, the organisations said the judicial review "challenges the government's decision to cut recoverable costs in the scheme by significant amounts", adding their concern that the decision was made at an insurance summit held by Prime Minister David Cameron where the government consulted insurers "but not those representing the interests of victims and claimants".

All that huffing and puffing appeared to be the most significant melodrama January had to offer, but then the Court of Appeal judgement in  Henry v Newsgroup Newspapers came along. With a decision which many of its detractors hope could place a helpful spanner in the works for the post-Jackson costs regime, the Court of Appeal found that there could be a reason why the proper conduct of proceedings is more expensive than originally expected. FOIL President Rod Evans, quickly came out publicly to say how the judgement was 'extremely disappointing'.

It's becoming increasingly clear that in these uncertain times there are winners and losers on any given day. Indeed, Mr Evans' words came in a week during which research from loss adjuster Garwyn Group had suggested defendants' costs could be cut by up to 50% under the proposed fast track EL/PL scheme. Did anyone mention clouds or silver linings?