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North/South Divide?

It's arguable that some solicitors renewing their PII insurance experienced an all time low this year, as the market that serves them became more turbulent than ever.

Historically solicitors PII has been a volatile sector, however the implosion of two 'unrated' insurers; Balva and Lemma, coupled with withdrawals of underwriting capacity by major players XL Insurance and AIG, meant 2013 became a significant drain on many law firms' patience.

In the aftermath of renewals at the beginning of October, Post Magazine reported how those previously insured by Lemma would not see any open claims being covered in full as the liquidator squeezed the purse strings on creditors. Meanwhile, 13% of solicitors were forced down the route of renewing with unrated insurers, according to research by law firm advisers O'Connors.  

In the analysis there was certainly a lot of finger pointing, largely at brokers for directing solicitors down the route of cheaper, unrated, insurance and according to further Post reportage, "at least 175" law firms were unable to secure cover and are currently in the extended indemnity period, which runs out imminently.

As with insurance renewals, the costs of doing business always get passed on somewhere and this month it was the turn of the new Lord Chief Justice to advise lawyers on ways they could help. In a story picked up across all media both trade and national, Lord Thomas reminded the market how there are 'huge differences' in rates between firms in London and those around the UK and that new rules on proportionality should place more emphasis on employing non-London lawyers when cases are brought outside the capital. 

His speech can be viewed here and also includes recommendations that law firms make much greater use of freely available communications technology like Facetime and Skype.

And finally, as October drew to a close the biggest story of the month for personal injury professionals drew a sigh of relief for some as the Ministry of Justice announced that the small claims limit would not, in fact, be raised to £5000 as previously feared. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was, for 24 hours at least, a popular man in claimant circles as the familiar twitter hashtag #failinggrayling disappeared on 23rd October. One suspects it may return…