Khalid, what’s your role at Kennedy’s?
I’m a partner in the Liability Division of Kennedys, based in the Birmingham office. I deal with and oversee a team defending Employer Liability, Public Liability and Motor claims, as well as assisting with the management of the office.
What kind of clients do you work for and where are they predominantly based?
We work with a mixture of clients that range from locally headquartered self-insured PLCs, corporate organisations, to insurance companies with national coverage. When receiving instructions from an insurer, we have two ‘clients’ whose interests we look after; the insured and the insurer. The nature of work and clients we represent mean that the litigation we are involved in could be conducted out of various courts nationally. The types of claims our clients receive will range from slips and trips in public places, accidents at work and road traffic accidents.
How’s your market looking for 2016? How have things changed over the past five or so years? And how do you think things will change over the next few years?
The PI market is still reeling from the latest seismic changes to be introduced as a result of Lord Jackson’s costs reforms. The full effect of these reforms is taking hold and the impact on the market has been significant. There has been consolidation, mergers and takeovers by both claimant and defendant firms. Regrettably, there have also been some significant casualties, with those who have not had the resources or financial clout to respond and adapt to the swift and significant financial impact of the changes, falling by the way side. Mergers have not been limited to the law firms, with insurers doing likewise. These changes have ultimately filtered down to having an impact on their legal panel appointments.
I think there will be further consolidation in the marketplace, involving the players on both sides, continuing throughout the year, as confidence begins to grow back. I see positive growth in industry sectors such as construction, manufacturing and retail. We have clients in all these sectors which will in turn have a positive impact on our business.
The public awareness in respect of injury claims has increased significantly over the last decade with references to the ‘compensation culture’ and ‘crash for cash’ being a common conversation piece. Given the publicity surrounding such topics, with successive governments showing their determination to tackle the increased costs of claims, will – according to many commentators – ultimately get passed down to the consumer. It seems that determination has not shown signs of wilting, with further proposed changes over the next year or so. They are intended to reduce the overall costs of claims, such as increasing the small claims limit – thereby reducing the need for a lawyer’s input and costs – and even abolishing the ability to recover damages for minor whiplash injuries altogether.
The controlling of costs and lawyer input is unlikely to be limited to the small claims sector, with current discussion and debate about introducing Online Dispute Resolution, internet-based Court service allowing judges to decide cases online and generally more efficient Court service.
Where do you think the opportunities for growth lie? And – on the flip side – what are your concerns for the market moving forward?
Whilst the changes that have taken – and continue – to take place in our sector have understandably caused anxiety, uncertainty and apprehension, they are ultimately just changes – changes that need to be reacted to by adapting. Being a supporter of empowering clients to enable them to reduce their legal spend; be it by assisting organisations to proactively look at ways to reduce the risk of being involved in claims litigation, to reducing the need for lawyer input, I see the changes themselves as an opportunity for growth! There will be further opportunities for lateral growth by way of mergers between the bigger players in the market, on both sides, as they adapt and cope with the changes.
Whilst the determination to tackle things such as fraudulent claims and costs of claims, there is the risk that those changes could actually have the opposite effect! For example, removing lawyers from the process will leave a void that may well be filled by unregulated claims management companies, which – in turn – increases the risk of fraudulent claims.
Finally, how would you sum yourself up as a lawyer in five words?
Business advisor and strategic problem solver