Personal injury specialist Minster Law has signed a two-year contract with national chambers Clerksroom and Parklane Plowden, to provide barristers for all its fast and multi-track cases.
Stephen Ward, chief executive of Clerksroom, told Legal Futures he wanted to negotiate similar contracts with other big personal injury firms, such as Slater & Gordon.
Minster Law, an alternative business structure, is part of the BLG Group, which owns comparethemarket.com among other brands, including a number of insurance companies.
Parklane Plowden, based in Leeds and Newcastle, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence work and has more barristers in these areas than any other set in the north.
Mr Ward said that normally a law large firm with a national practice would go to chambers across the country, but “being a plc, BLG wanted a minimum number of suppliers to give it more control.
He went on: “The contract we have negotiated is very detailed, and it took several months to get it right.
“Most solicitors treat barristers just as suppliers. Minster has taken a look at its supply chain and put everything together properly in a 53-page document.
“Instead of instructing most of the 350 chambers across the country on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, all the work will now go to two suppliers. It makes a lot of sense from Minster’s point of view.”
Mr Ward he wanted to “replicate” the deal with other national firms, such as Slater & Gordon.
“We will look to identify the five or six most likely targets and do a similar deal with one or two of them,” he said.
“A lot of law firms don’t look at their barrister spend and set out to reduce it. Minster Law have ended up with a much better service and level of control.”
Mr Ward said Clerksroom and Parklane Plowden had “no shortage of barristers” to carry out the work, with around 80 at each chambers.
“We are 100% confident that we can service any fast-track and multi-track claim anywhere in the country. What Minster wants is certainty over costs and what is happening.”
The chief executive did not give figures for the value of the contract, but said that unlike other law firms, Minster had not come to Clerksroom saying “we’ll give you lots of work if you do it cheaply”.
He said Clerksroom had no particular target for the number of barristers it wanted to recruit between now and the end of the year, but “if you get the work, you have no difficulty in recruiting barristers”.
Mr Ward explained that one of the biggest challenges was negotiating the indemnity insurance arrangements for barristers working under the contract, who are insured by the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund. In the end, he said Minster and Bar Mutual reached a compromise.
“It was an incredibly difficult contract to negotiate, but in the end the result is absolutely fantastic and a great model for the way the Bar works with national brands. Sometimes you just have to jump through the hoops.”
Clerksroom launched its Clerksroom Direct service in January this year, which aims to handle 100 direct access cases a day by the end of 2015.