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2014 legal news in review

The legal sector continues to grow and evolve amidst changing tides of economics and regulation. PremExtra reviews some the stories that have hit the headlines so far this year… 

January 2014 Striking barristers spark controversy from the off

The legal services sector's year got off to a strange start with news that a Trip Advisor-style comparison web site had launched, enabling consumers to rate and review their legal advisors. 

Billed as the UK's most comprehensive legal recommendations website, Ratedsolicitors.com gives the public the opportunity to score their legal advisors - and law firms to buy advertising space. On reflection it seems to be a story of so far so good for this aggregator of legal advisors, with the site going strong so we'll revisit their progress at a later date…

Meanwhile, the beginning of 2014 also saw dramatic scenes in London as barristers staged a half-day strike in protest at Legal Aid cuts. The privations suffered by some counsel were underscored by a Daily Mail story about a barrister who couldn't make ends meet, quitting the bar to open a B&B in Yorkshire. 

February 2014 'Change Jackson if necessary' 

Jackson proved a dominant feature throughout the first half of the year and a Law Society Gazette article in February quoted Mr Justice Ramsey vowing to 'change Jackson if necessary' and gather data on the effects of reform.     

Meanwhile, the insurance industry launched a campaign aimed at challenging perceptions that it had exploited PI claims. The Association of British Insurers unveiled a new 'code of conduct' requiring policyholders to be made aware that they can appoint any lawyer they want. 

March 2014 ABS revolution interests insurance big-guns 

Some 250 Alternative Business Structure licences had been issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority by March, when news that major insurers Allianz had Direct Line had entered this fast-evolving new market. 

In the same month another major player from the legal sector, Clyde & Co, launched an apprenticeship programme enabling youngsters to focus on catastrophic injury, disease and fraud work, while combining formal study with on-the-job learning. 

May 2014 Clash of judicial and government titans 

Legal aid cuts continued to keep the headline-writers busy in May, with super-heavyweight figures from the government and judiciary pulling no punches. 

The Daily Telegraph reported Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's clash with legal professionals over proposed legal aid spending cuts and tighter rules on judicial review. Earlier protests from barristers had resulted in Grayling postponing legal aid spending cuts, although he remained committed to cutting spending on publicly funded legal services. 

The country's most senior judges were also spoiling for a fight in May. They blamed legal aid cuts on a spike in unrepresented claimants, courtroom violence, extra litigation and higher costs. The Judicial Executive Board suggested the Ministry of Justice's legal aid economies were actually resulting in higher costs and greater inefficiencies. 

June/July 2014 Media gaze turns to triple hearing on Mitchell 

June saw substantial media coverage of three major cases linked to the Mitchell ruling, with Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson hearing consecutive appeals. 

The highly unusual triple hearing aimed to clarify the post-Mitchell situation on case management rules. It involved the Court of Appeal hearing the cases together because they were linked to arguments relating to the Mitchell judgment last November, when Dyson refused relief from sanctions against the submission of a late costs budget. 

The hearings did not get off to the most auspicious start, with the irony of a 30 minute delay not lost on lawyers ready to argue that judges were being too harsh on missed deadlines