News round-up: would-be ABS expands, HSBC publishes panel criteria, and much more

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By Legal Futures

5 April 2012


Eastwell: SRA City adviser joins Obelisk advisory board

Quindell buys Ai Claims

Quindell Portfolio Plc, the brand extension company set to buy Liverpool law firm Silverbeck Rymer once it receives its alternative business structure licence, has taken its stake in accident management company Ai Claims from 29.9% to 77.6%, triggering a mandatory offer for the remaining shares.

Ai and Silverbeck Rymer are part of Quindell’s vision to offer insurers a complete outsourced claims-handling service. The company last week announced yet another acquisition, medical investigations and rehabilitation business Enzyme International. Enzyme uses pain detection, diagnostics and rehabilitation, “with a view to reducing leakage in insurance claims resulting from fraud and inappropriate treatment strategies”.

Rob Terry, chairman and chief executive of Quindell, said: “Now that Ai Claims is a subsidiary of Quindell, we will continue to lower the cost of claims for the insurance industry, and work with major insurers, looking to offer them the choice of a combined accident management, credit hire, legal services and medical services solution that will be unique in the UK market place, or of taking individual services according to their specific requirements.”

Law Society withdraws PII broker list

Solicitors should ask their professional indemnity insurance brokers what commission/fees they receive, the Law Society is to advise in updated guidance as it withdraws its list of brokers.

The society is now directing firms seeking a broker to search facilities provided by the websites of the Financial Services Authority and British Insurance Brokers Association.

A spokesman said: “While the Law Society doesn’t have the resources to vet all the brokers on our list, we have been concerned that this is not the perception within the solicitors’ profession.

“Despite this lack of quality assurance, a small number of brokers have given the impression that their inclusion on the list made them ‘Law Society approved’. The list has therefore become a free service for brokers with little actual value to our members, which is why we intend to withdraw it.

“We plan to refer solicitors to other channels where they can search for brokers. We are updating our brokers guide to provide solicitors with a checklist of factors they should consider when choosing a broker to ensure that they get the best value.

“For example, solicitors should ask brokers what commission/fees they receive in the interest of transparency, which brokers must provide on request as per the FSA’s rules.

“There will be tips to ensure that brokers are providing solicitors with a level of service that meets their specific needs, more detail about the different types of intermediaries that are in the market and consideration of the pros and cons of continuity of service.” See the Law Society’s PII resources here.

HSBC publishes panel criteria

HSBC has published its panel membership criteria and said it is still open to applications amid growing adverse publicity over the restricted choice of approved conveyancers.

However, in a statement it said new applicants will be considered “if there is a need for the firm to support the panel geographically”. The criteria are:

  • Agreeing to the fixed fees for customers set by HSBC (£399 for purchases worth up to £100,000, rising in increments to £549 for purchases worth £300-500,000);
  • Agreeing to the addition of electronic links to facilitate online case tracking for customers;
  • Achieving the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation where relevant;
  • Agreeing to Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and county court judgment checks; and
  • Being registered with the SRA or Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

Head of mortgages Peter Dockar said: “We introduced our panel to provide additional protection for our customers through a ‘no-sale, no-fee’ guarantee and to offer them a guaranteed fixed fee and quality of service for the important conveyancing work when they purchase a property.

“We continue to review and add to the panel on an ongoing basis and following feedback have now published the criteria for firms to be considered.”

Meanwhile, Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank – which are both part of the National Australia Bank Group – are to restrict membership to their mortgage lender panels in England and Wales to law firms with CQS or which are already on its approved panel for undertaking business lending work.

Michael Webber, head of legal services for the two banks, said: “Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks see CQS as a positive development and are encouraging further membership of the scheme. The new arrangements for England and Wales will apply to all applications received on or after 16 April 2012. Arrangements in Scotland are unchanged.”

Separately, myhomemove, the UK’s largest conveyancer and, through its subsidiary Premier P

roperty Lawyers the UK’s first alternative business structure (ABS) after it was licensed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, has announced a record year for 2011. The number of cases it handled rose 17%, making it a 50% rise over two years. It has also announced Doug Crawford, previously chief executive at financial services network Personal Touch, as its new chief executive.

Simmons heads to Bristol

Simmons & Simmons has become the latest large City firm to move work out of London by announcing plans to open an office in Bristol in the autumn.

In a statement, the firm said: “The office will support the firm in undertaking complex, high value work for clients in a more efficient and cost effective way. Lawyers based in Bristol will initially undertake projects, real estate and dispute resolution legal work.”

Managing partner Jeremy Hoyland said: “Our lawyers in Bristol will service complex legal work where they have relevant experience and where location is not an issue for our clients. Clients quite rightly look to firms that can provide overall value. Our office in Bristol will allow us to deliver greater efficiency, while maintaining our reputation for excellence.”

Eastwell to advise Obelisk

Nick Eastwell, the SRA’s chief adviser on City firms and former senior Linklaters partner, has joined the advisory board of innovative legal outsourcing business Obelisk Legal Support.

Obelisk uses top non-practising lawyer parents to provide law firms and in-house departments with temporary support.

He joins Professor Stephen Mayson, barrister Peter Ling –­ formerly regional general counsel for Asia and Australasia at BP –­ Reed Smith partner Jeremy Glover, and Paul Basger, partner at law firm gunnercooke on the board.

Mr Eastwell said: “In a demanding modern legal world work/life balance is, increasingly, on the agenda and young working mothers face the challenge of combining child rearing with practising law. In addition, with overcapacity in the market, there is a growing need to be able to supply flexible resources to match the peaks and troughs of client demand.

“I see Obelisk Legal as a new dynamic and welcome entrant to the profession with a focus on these pressure points and offering, with its reservoir of high-quality young, mostly female, lawyers, a practical solution.”

We revealed recently that Obelisk is looking to increase the number of lawyers on its books from 60 to 500 by the end of the year.

Society names new senior manager

The Law Society has appointed Nigel Spencer to the new role of chief of commercial affairs, with responsibility for all of the society’s professional and membership services.

The role forms part of the new streamlined senior management structure, reporting to chief executive Des Hudson.

Mr Spencer joins from business and technology services company Logica, where he has held senior positions such as director of UK business consulting and director of banking for the global financial services business.

The announcement follows the recent appointment of Patricia Greer, formerly of the Cabinet Office, to the role of chief of corporate affairs. To complete its new line-up, the society has also to appoint a director of shared services, who will play a pivotal role in the new governance structure as a member of the senior management teams at both the Law Society and SRA.

Riverview snaps up Hopkins

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business launched earlier this year by LawVest, has appointed Jeremy Hopkins as its director of operations.

Currently practice manager at 3 Verulam Buildings, Mr Hopkins will be responsible for the day-to-day running of Riverview Chambers, including workflow and quality control processes, plus pricing strategies.

Adam Shutkever, chief operating officer at Riverview Law, said it was the first of a series of appointments the business plans to make in the coming months.

EAT dismisses pupillage discrimination case

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) last week comprehensively rejected a claim that the Bar Council’s requirement on chambers to fund pupils breaches the Race Relations Act 1976.

In Iteshi v The General Council of the Bar, the EAT upheld an earlier employment tribunal ruling that the claimant was not being disadvantaged as a black African.

Hattons goes for gold

Lancashire law firm Hattons has launched a free ‘Gold Business Membership’ scheme providing members with legal discounts, plus a variety of special offers.

It offers business clients 15% off will drafting for staff members and 10% off family law services, as well as a free compliance review, along with free business seminars at St Helens RFC and Widnes Vikings as well as discounts for Domino’s Pizza in St Helens and 10% discount off car and van hire. There is a separate scheme for private clients.

Senior partner Bruce Hatton said: “We recognised the increasing popularity of membership schemes in general, and saw an opportunity to provide our own unique scheme.”

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