RIP : Ed of Blawg Review

With sadness, I learned today of the death of Ed of Blawg Review.

I did not have the pleasure of meeting him – but I did receive many amusing emails from him and I had the pleasure and privilege of writing a few Blawg Reviews.  Through Blawg Review – I discovered a fine community of legal bloggers – and, to this day, enjoy their company in the blogosphere and on twitter. Ed brought a lot of people together and through his enthusiasm fostered interest and pleasure in legal blogging.

So… thank you, Ed. RIP

Blawg Review 

And here is a fine tribute to Ed from a good friend of mine 

Ed, We Hardly Knew Ye http://wp.me/pCh12-1mR 

A few views from the law blogs…

The economy may be turning a corner and the outlook brightening.  Legal jobs & lawyer recruitment in London appears to be on the up.

Prisoner Votes…
Carl Gardner, writing at his Head of Legal blog, considers the current position on the right of prisoners to vote in a most useful analysis of the UK Supreme Court judgment: R (Chester) v Justice Secretary, McGeoch v Lord President.

Carl Gardner opens his analysis thus: “It’s no surprise that the Supreme Court has today unanimously dismissed appeals by two prisoners who wanted various remedies under the Human Rights Act and EU law for being denied the vote in Parliamentary, local, Scottish Parliament and European election. These cases were always weak.”

Francis Fitzgibbon QC, writing in the LRB in September on the ‘Bedroom Tax’ has an interesting and very readable analysis on ‘Judicial Activisim’.  A good (and informative) read: Judicial Activisim.

 

Alex Novarese, well known for his time as editor of Legal Week, moved some time ago to take up a position as Editor-in-Chief at Legal Business.  The  Legal Business blog is a good read.  The Deal Watch feature on Dr Martens – a case of putting the boot out? – is worth a look: Deal Watch: CC and DLA Piper step up on £300m Dr Martens buyout

And…of course… for a very useful review on matters Human Rights et al – The UK Human Rights blog edited by Adam Wagner, Rosalind English and Angus McCullough QC is a very good read.  Another hall of mirrors human rights story from the Telegraph  will give you a good insight into the coverage this excellent blog provides.

I have been out of circulation for several months due to a rather severe spinal injury sustained in a bizarre accident.  I fell backwards into the bath while shaving – tripping on a wet bathmat.  I couldn’t even sue anyone which some would say may have hurt more than the injury.  I could not possibly comment on such a suggestion.

Back to blogging regularly now and my podcasts will resume soon.

Could the purge of the personal injury industry actually be a good thing?

Could the purge of the personal injury industry actually be a good thing?
Tim Deakin

It’s not always easy to find the silver lining in the midst of a crisis. But there is a growing feeling in the personal injury industry that the Jackson Reforms might have a more positive impact on the claims management landscape than initially thought.

Although the full effects of the legislation changes have not yet been felt by the majority of the industry – due to the average length of a compensation case being more than a year, most businesses will still be processing claims under the old system for some time – there is widespread agreement that the next 12 months will see a seismic shift in the industry.

As the profitability of PI diminishes, it is likely that smaller firms will disappear or be absorbed by the larger organisations. Another probable outcome is that solicitors withdraw their 100% compensation offers to protect against the loss of profit.

Of course, the real victim in all of this is the accident victim. If solicitors are forced to collect the full 25% of compensation awarded or even turn away claimants when the new legislation surrounding small claims in road traffic accident cases comes in, it is the man (and woman) on the street who suffers most. The result of this will be an increase in individuals representing themselves in court with no prior experience of pursuing compensation, and a decrease in legitimate claims from those afraid of expending time, energy and money on a case they don’t feel they can win.

Where there are challenges there are also opportunities

So where does the silver lining lie?

For those progressive legal businesses equipped to provide a swift, efficient service the stick used liberally by the Jackson Reforms is likely to be followed by the carrot of fewer competitors and an opportunity to grow market share. Claims management firms such as Winn Solicitors, which is based in Newcastle Upon Tyne where overheads are considerably cheaper, promise to retain their commitment to 100% compensation despite the squeezing of their margins.

And what about the wider road traffic accident landscape? Well, for those businesses able to steer their ship safely through the legal storm surrounding PI, there’s something else on the horizon that might just give them hope. As suggested in a previous guest post on this blog the legal industry is undergoing a PI reputation crisis currently. Stirred up by both the media and, to a large extent, insurers looking to place blame elsewhere for rising insurance premiums, accident victims are now afraid of being tarred with the “compensation culture” brush.

The purge brought about by the Jackson Reforms may weed out the unscrupulous claims firms in the UK, it may simply send smaller or less efficient organisations out of business, but what we must hope it will do is remove the stigma surrounding Personal Injury. Once this is achieved, Britain might just be left with a transparent, regulate service accepted and used responsibly by the public. And the question then is, “Who will insurers have left to blame for their premium hikes?”

Guest author 
This post has been brought to you by Tim Deakin, he has been writing online for a number of years and has spoken with Winn Solicitors to gather the data found within this post.

Guest Post: Why you shouldn’t be afraid of claiming against an employer

Why you shouldn’t be afraid of claiming against an employer

Making an injury at work claim can be a difficult prospect for workers, as they may feel uncomfortable attempting to take compensation from an employer.
By Sheldon Davidson Solicitors
If you suffer an injury at work, the prospect of making a complaint against your employer can be a little daunting.
Depending on the size of the company you work for, you may also be concerned that their financial muscle will mean you are unlikely to compete with them when it comes to the quality of your legal representation.
You may also be concerned that a losing claim will make potential future employers wary of hiring you, while some may mistakenly believe that they will need to wait until they have secured compensation before they can begin paying for specialist medical care.
If you have worked for a company for a long time, it is also possible you will have developed an emotional attachment to your job and may consequently be hesitant about making a claim against the organisation.
No win, no fee claims
What you may not know is that a successful claim will not see your employers having to pay your compensation out of their own pocket.

It is their insurance company who will foot the bill should you successfully secure compensation. Businesses will be prepared to deal with accident at work claims as they arise, and so once a claim is made the process of pursuing damages should not come as a surprise to them.

As for your choice of solicitor, many will provide a service on a no win, no fee basis. This means you will not have to pay a penny until such time as you have successfully achieved a compensation reward. This means it is perfectly possible to find the necessary calibre of legal representative needed to succeed with your claim.

While the law surrounding the no win, no fee system changed earlier this year, you should still pursue your claim to receive the compensation you deserve.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 means that you may now have to pay up to 25% of your compensation towards solicitor fees if your claim is successful, whereas before this money would have come from the losing side. You should check to see what your solicitor’s policy is regarding this, and not all firms elect to take money from their clients.

As for medical care, a good solicitor will ensure you receive this as soon as possible, helping you to recover as quickly as possible without having to wait for the conclusion of your case.

Whatever your concerns are about making an injury at work claim, an experienced solicitor will be able to answer all your questions and address any apprehension you be feeling.

Adapting to the post referral fee world by going online

Adapting to the post referral fee world by going online

It’s now been six months since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force, which for those unfamiliar few, brought with it a ban on solicitors paying referral fees to obtain work.

LASPO predictably lead to a sharp decline in the number of claims management companies who were the primary recipient of referral fees.  So with firms no longer able to obtain work in this way they’ve had to find new approaches to attract perspective clients.

This is where some firms have started to look towards the Internet, and the online space is packed full of opportunities for legal professionals if you know where to find and how to use them.

#1 Website

While most law firms have a website, you should firstly review the content to ensure it’s detailing all your services and sets out why clients should instruct you over the thousands of other law firms out there.

Once your site is in good shape you’ll then need to go out and attract some visitors.

#2 Blog and Content Generation

When building a legal case lawyers know they’ll need to collect a substantial amount of evidence to reinforce its validity.   That foundation work is the key – and it’s no different when building an online presence.

The foundation work here comes from sharing your unique experiences and opinions on subjects you are passionate and knowledgeable about.  This can be done in a variety of formats but the most popular is by creating a blog.

A blog can reside on your firm’s website or on a completely independent site.  Those wanting to keep things separate can use free platforms us as WordPress and Blogger, or for those desiring a more media rich platform could even try Tumblr.

But the key to this isn’t the technology that you use; it’s creating an outlet to produce regular content.  Just by posting your opinion on a new piece of legislation, or general guidance on a legal matter can allow your insights to be read by peers and potential clients alike.

#3 Social Media

The number of social networks is ever increasing and trying to maintain a presence on all of them would be a full time job.  That’s why it’s important to find a social network you are comfortable with and which has an audience interested in what you have to say.

Use of social media can range from publishing your blogs, taking part in discussions or simply sharing items that are of interest.

Everyone has (hopefully) heard of facebook and twitter, so I’m not going to focus on them.  Instead I’m going to touch on a growing network that shouldn’t be overlooked, Google+.

Just like facebook and twitter, Google+ is a place for you to share content, discuss topics and stay up to date with contacts.  On Google+ you can have an individual profile as well as a page for your firm, allowing you to interact on behalf of both.  And it’s this interaction which is the key on any social network; as just broadcasting news to the public isn’t being particularly social!

I’ve found myself using Google+ more and more recently as it has most of the features of twitter/facebook whilst also interfacing with other great Google products (maps, reviews, email etc.)  For anyone wanting to give Google+ a try, I recommend this Google+ guide for an understanding of almost every feature.

But the most important factor in using any social network is that you enjoy interacting with the people that are there.  So try as many networks as possible until you find the right fit for you.

#4 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

This is where it can get a bit technical but with a little knowledge you can get your content, services and firm out to a much wider audience.

The whole idea behind SEO is to better inform search engines (Google, Bing etc.) that your site is the most relevant in its niche.  So if someone types in ‘solicitors in Sheffield’ there’s a better chance of your website being in the first couple of pages as opposed to buried on page 36!

There are many, many ways of doing this and depending on your business priorities some techniques may be better done with the help of an experienced SEO agency.  However there are a few basic tips to keep in mind which will help you get noticed:

Don’t bury the lead – If you’ve created a great blog explaining what happens at a court hearing, don’t give it a vague title like ‘County Court Procedure’.  Call it what someone might search for, such as ‘What happens when I go to court?’ or ‘What’s involved in a court hearing?’

Don’t make sharing difficult – Make it as easy as possible for people to share your content.  Most social networks provide code snippets you can add to a webpage or blog allowing visitors to quickly share, tweet or like.

Help people find your website – Links to your website from other sites not only send visitors your way but are also an indicator to search engines that your site is popular and relevant.  So check that all of your online listings have links to your site.  Does your Law Society entry contain your web address?  Do all your office locations appear on Google Maps?

#5 Pay per Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC is simply bidding for ad space search engines, so when someone types in a certain phrase your ad will appear if you’ve bid enough.  However you only pay a fee when the person actually clicks on your ad and is taken to your site.

As with SEO, and depending on your budget, it may be better to instruct an online agency to build your PPC campaign.  As researching search terms, creating adverts and managing performance can be a time consuming exercise and take a while to get right.  But if you just want to try PPC with a small budget Google Adwords does provide free help with setup to get you started.

Whatever your budget, there are a few things I’ve learnt that can help almost any campaign:

Be Specific – When selecting the search terms you want to target, be as specific as possible.  If you only deal with industrial disease claims ensure your terms focus just on these services. Whilst targeting general terms like ‘solicitors’ may get you a lot of traffic you’ll be paying for people looking for conveyancing solicitors etc.

Use Ad Extensions – Ad extensions can provide additional content to your ads like an office address, a phone number and social network links.  All of which can make your ad standout above the competition.

Don’t neglect your landing page – When focussing on the cost per click, number of visitors, adverts etc. it’s easy to forget the actual webpage you’re sending visitors to.  Don’t send everyone to your homepage when they’re searching for a specific legal service, and be sure the page clearly tells them about what you offer and how to get in touch.

In conclusion …

There is no silver bullet to attract direct clients post-LASPO, but a little time and effort along with a combination of the above techniques can certainly help generate work online.

What’s worked for you? Do you have any other tips? Put your thoughts in the comments below

About the Author

Martyn Gilbert is Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors having worked in the legal industry for over 16 years.  Martyn oversees all digital marketing at the firm including online ad campaigns and social media activities.

Guest Post: The Advantages of the UK’s Patent Box for the Financial Services Industry

The Advantages of the UK’s Patent Box for the Financial Services Industry 

In April of this year the UK’s Patent Box legislation came into force. The Patent Box introduces a lower rate of corporation tax for companies who make profits from patented products and services.

The profits from the use of patented services and products will qualify for a lower corporation tax rate of 10%. Therefore, the Patent Box legislation has the potential to benefit many banks and financial services companies as they could gain patent protection for their back-office systems.

Nevertheless, relatively few banks and financial services companies have sought patent protection for their systems and they could consequently be missing out on a significant reduction in their tax liabilities. With huge budgets set aside to develop their IT systems, many companies have substantially invested in refining their back-office systems.

In order to benefit, companies within the financial services sector will need to identify which aspects of their back-office work can be patented. In the majority of cases it would be worthwhile for companies to apply for as many patents as possible.

Technical innovations that could be patentable include high-speed processing techniques, high-speed networks or other communications-related systems. In addition, large-scale data storage systems, encryption and other security aspects could also be patentable. A key question when deciding whether a system might be patentable is whether or not it could be applied to another field of technology.

Once a company has secured a patent they will then have a number of choices to make that could affect the amount of profits that will qualify for tax relief under the Patent Box. So as to optimise the financial benefit for the business, IT development and tax teams will need to work together.

Careful consideration will also have to be given to how the qualifying profits should be calculated. This is relatively simple in the case of patented products as the sale and manufacture of each product will qualify. However, this is more difficult and complex when it comes to patented services. Companies may choose to apply an accounting model for calculating the qualifying profits for patented services.

Patents can take between 18 and 36 months to obtain and so it is advisable to start planning and calculating as early as possible. In certain situations, patent applications can be fast-tracked and so companies may wish to take advice on whether this might financially worthwhile.

There have been concerns that the complexity of the aforementioned calculations could deter some companies from seeking tax relief. However, complexity is not a reason not to act and there are definitely some real benefits to be gained from the Patent Box.

Guest Post: Is there a PI reputation crisis?

Is there a PI reputation crisis? 

Personal Injury law gets very little prestige and respect in the academic community. If you look at the best Universities, rarely do you see a professor who specializes in personal injury law or a program dedicated to learning its specializations.

Take, for example, Oxford: if you look its list of course offerings, you can study anything from European Union law to Roman law…but nothing close to personal injury. In the United States, the University of California: Los Angeles School of Law has dozens of specializations and entirely separate institutes within the school dedicated to anything from business law and policy to sexual orientation law, but nothing on personal injury.

The relegation of PI to the lowest rank of legal practice seems unfair, unearned and outdated. Especially in the current age of corporate corruption, one would think that the lawyers who fight for those who are taken advantage or and both physically and emotionally damaged would be considered slightly more noble than, say private equity lawyers or bankruptcy attorneys.

Hollywood, of all places, seems to be the only place where personal injury law is seen as heroic, with films such as Erin Brockovitch or A Civil Action, standing up for the less fortunate. But about as often as the film industry paints PI lawyers as saviors, they are portrayed as ambulance chasers and bottom feeders.

Do you know of any universities or firms trying to offer training in PI? Are there ways that, we as a group can elevate the public’s view of PI law?”

The Queen’s Counsel Lawyer’s Omnibus !

This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the first ‘Queen’s Counsel’ cartoon in The Times and to celebrate that fact, its cartoonist Alex Williams has put together a bumper edition Queen’s Counsel Lawyer’s Omnibus. This really is the all-singing all-dancing humongous collection of the very best of Queen’s Counsel. It’s published by Tim Kevan’s (Author of Babybarista)  company Law Brief Publishing Ltd  – it will be a good read! . You can buy it for £9.99 from amazon.co.uk.