F4L unveils referral fee-compliant ‘pay per enquiry’ model

Anwar: Prudent to be ready now

Marketing collective First4Lawyers has unveiled a new lead generation model that it says allows firms to pay a fee per enquiry while complying with the referral fee ban.

It said the new approach acknowledged that the value of road traffic accident claims for firms would be “greatly reduced or even removed completely” because of next year’s Civil Liability Act reforms.

It will operate alongside First4Lawyers’ existing panel scheme, under which firms pay a flat monthly marketing fee and receive a fluctuating number of enquiries on a month-by-month basis.

The two models will run alongside each other while the timeline for implementation of the Civil Liability Act reforms remains uncertain, enabling law firms to decide which one is best suited to their own business.

While, under the new scheme, First4Lawyers will still screen the viability of new enquiries and decide whether to transfer the call to a panel law firm, the caller will be notified that they have to provide the same relevant information to the law firm as there will be no data transferred.

First4Lawyers said legal advice suggested that not transferring data was “the only way that a ‘fee per enquiry’ model can be considered to comply with the LASPO ban on law firms paying a referral fee”.

Section 56(5) of LASPO says there is a referral if one person provides another with “information that a provider of legal services would need to make an offer to the client” to provide personal injury legal services.

Though there is widespread doubt that the reforms will come into force in April 2020 as planned, First4Lawyers said it was rolling out its alternative structure now “so that firms can be prepared for when they are implemented”. It is also consulting with panel firms more broadly to plan for the post-reform period.

Managing director Qamar Anwar said: “One thing next year’s reforms will not do is stop people being injured. Access to justice is core to our work and we want to ensure that consumers can continue to find lawyers to represent them.

“We are confident in our ability to deliver what legal practices need and First4Lawyers has always adapted to changes in the market in a way that helps the law firms we work with.

“We recognise how difficult the reforms will make life for many personal injury firms and are committed to working with them to ensure their practices remain viable.

“That means adopting a flexible approach to meet the needs of our panel members and in the first instance, a new, alternative model, that means all of the risk will now rest with F4L. Despite the doubts surrounding the date of implementation, we believe it is prudent for firms and for us to be ready now.”

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