2019: Achievements, fears and tech in law and ATE

16th December 2019

It’s been another interesting year across the clinical negligence, civil litigation and personal injury sectors. We asked some of our ATE team and solicitor partners what their achievements were, what their fears are, and what they thought of the latest technological developments…

What was your greatest achievement in 2019?
Nicholas Lee

Nicholas Lee

Nicholas Lee, Paragon Costs Solutions: “Personally, my greatest achievement has been representing Bristol Law Society as its President. This has been an honour and I have enjoyed driving new initiatives around community engagement, legal tech, inclusion/equality and access to justice.

This has created so many opportunities to meet great people and learn about other initiatives nationally and regionally. I have since been appointed to Bristol City Council’s One City Economy Board, UWE Law School’s Advisory Board and I have become an Enterprise Advisor through the West of England Combined Authority.

Paul O’Connor, O’Connors: Consolidating our position as legal and business advisers to so many of the market innovators in the UK legal services sector.

Julie Taberer

Julie Taberer

Julie Taberer, AO Advocates: AO Advocates is a small specialist child abuse firm. This is a unique selling point for our services to clients. We may be small but we’re on an equal footing with the big players, with specialist knowledge and dedicated client care.

This showed itself in how we were recently shortlisted for the Law Society’s Excellence Awards in the ‘Excellence in Client Care’ category and in the ‘Claimant Team of the Year’ category at the Personal Injury Awards. We are a small firm who hold our own and provide an approachable, personable service which is reflected in the testimonies from our clients.

Enrique Gomez, DAS UK Group: We’ve continued to make progress as a business and have seen strong loyalty from our business partners which is reassuring us that we’re definitely doing the right things!

Geoff Silva

Geoff Silva

Geoff Silva, Silva Legal: My greatest achievement has been meeting with the Chief Executive of the National Health Service Resolution (NHSR), Helen Vernon. This came about following social media interaction between myself and the NHSR about collaborative working from those representing both claimants and defendants.

As a result of my tweets, Helen invited me to meet with her to see what we could achieve to ensure that patient safety was championed from all sides. It was really interesting to learn about what the NHSR is doing in terms of learning from previous negligence claims and what assistance they need from claimant groups to assist with that process.

We only met at the end of November (one week after my tweets) and we have arranged a follow up meeting with leaders in this specialist area from claimants and defendants. This is really exciting and hopefully will lead to greater collaboration in learning and dealing with claims.

John Durbin

John Durbin

John Durbin, DAS UK Group: From a personal perspective I’ve had a successful 2019. At the beginning of the year we had a slight change in our departmental structure resulting in me taking increased responsibilities within the PI and clinical negligence business.

It has been a challenging year where I had to forge business relationships with new partners, as well as continuing to service existing ones.

What is your greatest fear for the Clin Neg, Civil and/or PI sectors?

John Durbin, DAS UK Group: Although it has gone fairly quiet on the subject recently, I fear the idea of fixed recoverable costs (FRC) for clinical negligence cases is still not completely off the table and implementation could well be rushed through at some point in 2020.

I know the majority of our business partners have already begun to alter the way they work; whether they have changed the types of cases they’re running, or introducing a smarter way of dealing with lower value cases in order to minimise the impact any expedition of FRC may have. For now I think we continue to hope that no news is good news!

Paul O’Connor, O’Connors: The law of unintended consequences resulting in less rather than more access to justice.

Geoff Silva, Silva Legal: My greatest fear for those being negligently injured is that the numbers continue to rise. There are huge shortages in our wonderful NHS. Regardless of political persuasion it is clear there needs to be investment of money and people in order to sustain its functionality. There is so much stress placed on an overworked system and with this comes practical and medical issues.

By the system failing, it causes a downward spiral. Less staff cause more stress and difficulties for those on the front line. Additional stress causes potential for more negligence, causing harm to those who are meant to being cared for. Such negligence causes more complaints and possible claims.

It should be noted that not all incidents where there is an adverse outcome are caused by negligence. However, for those that do then cause monies from the system need to be paid out to those negligently injured. It is a vicious cycle that needs to broken.

Nicholas Lee, Paragon Costs Solutions: My fears surround the extension of fixed costs, the reduction in legal aid, and the inevitable impact this has on access to justice. I am not convinced that fixed fee regimes promote access to justice and I am even less convinced that any fixed fee will represent reasonable remuneration for the amount of work required.

Enrique Gomez

Enrique Gomez

Enrique Gomez, DAS UK Group: We put a lot of effort into making our business sustainable in the long term. We see other strategies which are more focused on short term income rather than long term stability and profitability. Ignoring this will come as a detriment to customers as they might end up with fewer options or pricing increases.

What advances in lawtech present the greatest opportunities for the legal professions and which aspects are you most wary of?

Nicholas Lee, Paragon Costs Solutions: Tech is the most exciting aspect of legal evolution. Legal tech will have a massive impact on the delivery of legal services and the advice clients are given regarding their business or personal matters.

Smart contracts, automation, data-led analysis, machine based learning and cryptocurrency are just a few things that every lawyer is going to need to understand, embrace and explore sooner rather than later. Tech will speed up our processes and create lots of opportunity for new business.

Paul O’Connor

Paul O’Connor

Paul O’Connor, O’Connors: Opportunities will come from technology that enables law firms to extract commercially usable trends from big data. Law firms should be wary of listening to technology salesmen and should focus on listening to their customers.

John Durbin, DAS UK Group: We have already begun to see certain law firms look at technology to assist with things such as risk assessment and I’m sure this will continue to be the trend going forward. However, we know that not any two cases are the same, certainly in more complex cases, and for all the amount of AI which may be available I cannot see how this will ever fully replace the need for human experience.

Enrique Gomez, DAS UK Group: A lot is said about AI and the impact of new technologies in the legal sector. Although we haven’t seen any disruptors yet in the ATE market, I believe the biggest impact will come from the implementation of AI to support solicitors’ decision making; although I don’t believe it will ever replace it.

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