New marketing collective bids to move beyond PI as Accidents Direct plans big panel expansion

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21 January 2013

Georgiou: we are ahead of the game

A new marketing collective that is targeting consumer and commercial legal work is preparing for launch, Legal Futures can reveal.

Simply Lawyers argues that post-Jackson it is important that solicitors “move past the divide within their practice when it comes to marketing” that meant previously such activity was focused on the personal injury (PI) department.

Meanwhile, Accidents Direct hopes to become the country’s leading claims management company by bringing more firms onto its panel and so increasing its multi-million pound advertising budget.

Simply Lawyers is the brainchild of Matthew Waterfield, a member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and founder of claims management company Injury Lawyers UK, and his two non-lawyer partners. It covers PI, domestic and commercial conveyancing, employment, wills and probate, professional negligence, immigration and commercial work so that “we can offer an ‘across the board’ service to clients”, he said.

To join the panel, firms have to subscribe to at least two of the disciplines and pay a minimium of £10,000 a month. Mr Waterfield said he is looking to launch with at least 10 firms so as to secure a first-year marketing spend of £1m.

The package for firms includes a 24-hour call centre, “professionally presented and executed marketing campaigns”, and a client-vetting service with the aim of a 90% “qualified enquiry guarantee” – meaning 90% of referrals will turn into work. He said Injury Lawyers UK had a 98% case acceptance rate.

He said he was confident that the model would be compliant with the upcoming ban on referral fees in PI because it would be clear what services firms receive for their money and there would be no element of “payment for nothing”.

“We feel is a breath of fresh air in the industry,” Mr Waterfield said. “We will provide a national marketing campaign in all areas of law with no stipulations as to name changes and profit shares like others in the market with similar products.” It also offered firms the chance to grow together and not be “tied to any pre-existing rules” like some other networks.

Accident Direct has just signed up its 80th solicitor shareholder firm, and managing director Chris Georgiou said he hoped to reach about 140 by the end of the year before closing the doors. Firms have from five to 40 partners.

The company changed its model around 18 months ago in anticipation of a referral fee ban; where previously it operated a standard model of selling on leads to panel firms, now it is a co-operative where firms buy one or more shares in the company at £2,000 (each corresponding to a slot on the rota) and become part-owners of the business. Each slot then costs £40,000 a year and the referral system is automated.

Mr Georgiou said he was confident the model would comply with the ban, noting that it had passed muster with 80 COLPs (compliance officers for legal practice). “I think we are ahead of the game,” he told Legal Futures. “The claims industry continues to thrive, and we know that with a panel our size we will be able to offer an exceptional service in the highly competitive no win, no fee arena.”

The best-known PI marketing collective, InjuryLawyers4U, recently opened up its 43-strong panel for the first time in eight years.

This Wednesday the board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority will decide on how it will implement the referral fee ban, following the consultation issued in October. The rules will then have to be approved by the Legal Services Board ahead of the ban coming into force on 1 April.

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