Keith Miles – managing associate – on the insurance and PI sectors...

What have been the main trends/ developments in your sector over the past 12 months?
It is safe to say that the last 12 months have seen a great deal of change in the insurance/ PI sector; be it merger, movement of teams or - in the case of the claimant side - the emergence of a small number of national super firms. The insurance firms have had a relatively strong year with the core of them maintaining their work and a competitive interest in potential senior hires. PI on the claimant side has spent a year in flux as the Jackson Reforms kick in to practice and this ‘perfect storm of change’ has resulted in the inevitable move from the high street to the television advertising nationals.

What have been the real growth areas and where has the demand been coming from?
On the insurance side, there has been a keen interest in lateral hires who will add a competitive edge as well as growth in professional indemnity work. Defendant work generally has seen a recruitment shift towards the catastrophic injury work as naturally the reforms cut off a good amount of lower value claims. Clinical negligence on both sides of the fence has remained a strong growth area and allied to this has been a greater interest in Court of Protection work.

What have been the key stories that have dominated your sector?
The movement of teams from both Greenwoods and BLM to DWF with the consolidation of the Aviva work was both sudden and a little unexpected. On the claimant side, the strong emergence of Minster Law as a national practice was both welcome and of note. Whilst Slater & Gordon taking the commoditised side of Pannone, hot on the heels of its taking Fentons and others, certainly shook up that side of the market

What are your predictions for your region/ sector for 2014?
In 2014, much of the above will continue and possibly at an even faster rate. As the year unfolds there will either be strong firms or struggling firms. Reform and market forces have shown that muddling along in the middle is no longer an option for any practice. As one claimant PI managing partner has said; “get big, get niche or get out!”

How would you sum up 2013 in one sentence?
Interesting, competitive and brimful of opportunity for the smart!