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James Brewster, associate director, on trends in the insurance & PI sectors

What have been the main trends/ developments in your region/ sector over the past 12 months?
Over the last 12 months, the claimant PI sector has continued to see a movement away from smaller firms to fewer larger practices which can make the work pay post Jackson reforms. Other than these national heavyweights there has been interest in developing good catastrophic injury teams and, because of continued Legal Aid funding, development of industrial disease work. On the defendant side, we have seen opportunities within EL/PL but not RTA and, specifically, firms are looking for multi-track/large loss experience when they recruit as opposed to lower value/fast track work.

What have been the real growth areas and where has the demand been coming from?
Claimant and defendant clinical negligence and industrial disease seem to be key growth areas. Disease work has been traditionally popular in the north but has hit a renewed popularity in the south. As has been said by a managing partner: ‘get big or get niche’. Claimant clinical negligence has been watching and waiting but is now growing… in many cases to fill the void of PI work.

What have been the key stories that have dominated your region/ sector?
There has been very little by way of headline grabbing mergers over the last 12 months and the key stories have been the big getting bigger. Given the nature of the PI and Insurance work perhaps the key story has been the opening up of the sector to legal executives reflected in their increased rates with defendant panels. The recent announcement that the Government will allow legal executives to run their own law firms may prove to be the biggest and most hidden story of the year.

What are your predictions for your region/ sector for 2015?
Unless there are further adjustments to either Jackson, portals or to the work of clients, there will continue to be a push to either big or niche. The defendant insurance firms have learnt over this year to cut their particular cloth accordingly and will emerge stronger and more positive. The claimant PI firms will either get big, get niche or get out. Clinical negligence will never be more popular.

How would you sum up 2014 in one sentence?
The year that firms got big or niche or thought about getting out!

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