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Web forum drives QS firm’s consumer credit growth

Kate Briscoe [1]

Briscoe: “Swamped with work” after joining Howlett Clarke

The LegalBeagles web forum, set up by a Brighton litigation executive, is providing the town’s oldest law firm with a stream of consumer credit work and what is thought to be the first bank charges court victory since 2007.

Kate Briscoe, who works at QualitySolicitors Howlett Clarke, set up LegalBeagles in 2007 with friend Sharon Coleman. The forum currently attracts almost 9,000 unique visitors a day.

Ms Briscoe, who is training to become a chartered legal executive, said the site had experienced “crazy growth” in the last couple of years, creating a lot of work for the law firm.

“We get a lot of inquiries and we have to turn away quite a few,” Ms Briscoe said. “Those we can’t help we give good advice on how to negotiate and settle cases.”

The work is handled by a team including fellow litigation executive Paul Tilley, also training with CILEx, partner Jackie Gillespie and chartered legal executive Victoria Shepherd.

Ms Briscoe ran her own building firm in London for 10 years, where she experienced being on the receiving end of bank charges. She closed down the firm to start a new career as a family lawyer, but was advised against it during work experience. Instead she went on to become an operations and facilities manager at Brighton and Hove council, managing 52 staff. She left the council in 2012.

The following year, through LegalBeagles, she began working remotely on a consumer credit cases for a law firm in Wales. When that closed, she got a job as a consumer credit specialist with QS Howlett Clarke.

Ms Briscoe said most of her clients contacted her through LegalBeagles. “Within a month of joining Howlett Clarke we were swamped with work,” she said. “The majority of cases have to be done on conditional fees. We have to risk assess cases very carefully and I can’t deny that I cherry pick.” Ms Briscoe said the law firm had redeployed staff to help her from its personal injury department, such is the volume of work.

The firm successfully represented Oliver Foster-Burnell [2] earlier this summer against Lloyds TSB in a case at Taunton County Court. The bank was ordered to reimburse Mr Foster-Burnell with the £743 it had charged, plus interest, and a further £1,000 for damaging his credit reference file.

Deputy District Judge Stockdale held that the unarranged overdraft charges levied on Mr Foster-Burnell were contrary to the requirements of good faith under section 5(1) of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

“Banks have to take notice of this,” Ms Briscoe said. “This case is not going to stay at Taunton”. She said Lloyds TSB still had time to appeal, but if they decided not to, the firm could launch its own appeal.