The tension was palpable on Friday as the claimant-led portal judicial review was heard in the high court. We report on the final efforts being made to support solicitors before LASPO comes into effect.
As legal journalist Rachel Rothwell said on Friday afternoon, "Twitter really came into its own" as the social network buzzed with anticipation over the hearing at Court Number 1 in which the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and MASS faced up to the Ministry of Justice over the legality of the reduction in fees for portal cases.
For those hitting the refresh button at around 4pm on Friday afternoon to find out the latest updates from reporters at court or onlookers in the gallery, it was a case of the sublime to the ridiculous. At one point, the court stenographer apparently went AWOL and the decision was delayed, adding to the tension still further.
In the end for the claimant lobby however it was to no avail as the court found against them and judged that the decision had been arrived at legally. With an instant reaction from Chancery Lane, Desmond Hudson, CEO of the Law Society said: "We remain deeply unhappy with the new recoverable costs rules and the process by which the Government made its decision. However it was clear that the decision, however unfair we considered it to be, was going to be difficult to challenge. We will continue to impress upon Government the need to ensure that those injured through no fault of their own need to be able to seek redress, without putting themselves in severe financial difficulties."
The Judicial Review came in the wake of greater travails for personal injury professionals, who now have less than a month to absorb a string of new regulations published by the Ministry of Justice.
Rather like a crash course in brain surgery, the MOJ provided its new set of rules and regulations only five weeks in advance of the new regime, prompting desperate calls at the House of Lords Grand Committee for a delay.
Nevertheless, appeals to Lord MacNally at the Committee on 25th February for some respite so the industry can accommodate these changes fell on deaf ears. Every change is being implemented with the government clearly hell bent on getting every instrument and order required and through the system in time for April Fool's Day. This week the House of Lords was due to push through those regulations, in particular CFA Order 2013 and Costs Regulations 2013.
Often at the heart of personal injury professionals' position on civil justice reform debate has been the need to place the claimant at the heart of the system. It was with this issue firmly in mind that Premextra was buoyed to see a marked increase in practitioners taking the rehabilitation code seriously in their everyday work.
A report from the International Underwriting Association and the Association of British Insurers revealed that 97% of claims handlers, 93% of claimant lawyers and 88% of insurance lawyers use the code "at least some of the time" and that just under two thirds of the market are either "totally" or "very" satisfied with the code's wording. This contrasted with similar exercises in 2001 and 2006 which found far fewer practitioners either familiar with or using the code on a regular basis.