Campaign: petition to be delivered to Downing Street

Law firms are rallying around a campaign to warn the government that 100,000 jobs across the legal services industry will be lost over the next year as a result of its “savage” civil justice reforms, Legal Futures can reveal.

The ‘Save the Legal Industry’ campaign said law firms are already making layoffs and going bust ahead of the changes, with non-legal staff such as secretaries and administrative staff bearing the brunt – a situation that increasing the small claims limit for whiplash cases from £1,000 to £5,000 will exacerbate severely, it predicted.

Highlighting the “human toll” of the reform programme, it accused the government of ignoring the widespread impact of the changes across the sector, including claims management companies, medical reporting agencies, credit hire companies and others.

Following a meeting of managing partners in Manchester last week, well-known personal injury firms such as Amelans, Antony Hodari, Fentons, Jeffries Solicitors, Tollers and Gorman Hamilton have all backed the campaign, which is headed by Martin Coyne, managing partner of Manchester-based Ralli.

The campaign aims to gather at least 10,000 names on a petition that will be delivered to 10 Downing Street next Thursday, just four days before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 comes into force. This would require the government to issue a response to the petition; 100,000 signatures triggers consideration of a parliamentary debate. (Pending approval of the government e-petition, you can sign here.)

Mr Coyne said he has already had to make a fifth of his 85-strong personal injury department redundant as he contends with a likely 33% reduction in turnover because of the new portal fees. “I am doing everything I can to sustain the business. A lot of other firms are in the same boat.”

He continued: “The ultimate aim of the reforms, according to the government, is to reduce car insurance premiums. But the likes of Direct Line have already admitted that they will make no difference. What’s left is an attack on the economy at a time when the country can afford it least.

“Where do David Cameron and Chris Grayling think this many people will be able to find new jobs? In pandering to the wishes of the insurance lobby, this government will imperil many families and only end up increasing the welfare bill.”

Mr Coyne said he and his colleagues were taking up the cudgels because solicitors had been badly let down by their representative body. “The Law Society should have been at the forefront of this fight, but instead they’ve sat back and left it to others. This shameful inaction should have the same kind of consequences it is having for those it purports to represent, and so we call on the leadership of the Law Society to take responsibility.”

Others to have signed up to the campaign include law firms Russell & Russell, Beers, Edwards Hoyle and The Clarke Partnership, as well as Cobden House Chambers and after-the-event insurance company Keystone Legal.

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