Perhaps it’s a reflection of enhanced standards in legal and litigation services or maybe it’s a harbinger of things to come under impending changes to the Legal Services Act – whatever the case the most recent statistics from the Judicial and Court Statistics Report for 2011 reveal a drop in the number of professional negligence claims against lawyers and solicitors.
In fact, the news is not as positive as it would first seem. Between 2007 and 2009 there was a massive swell in the numbers of professional negligence claims against lawyers and solicitors, with the number peaking at 210 claims in 2009, up from 80 to 2008.
So perhaps the fact that there were 125 such claims in 2011 can be seen as a sign of progress or as a sign that things are returning to normal, or, indeed, that there are high level of cases pending – as many know the legal system can sometimes be a slow moving beast so it can take some time for litigation to register in the official statistics.
Furthermore, with the no-win, no-fee system due to be abandoned under proposals outlined in the Lord Jackson report, there is every likelihood that professional negligence claims against lawyers and solicitors will reach record levels in 2012. With the squeeze being put on access to justice this could be the year in which there is a rush to litigate.
Economic factors undoubtedly play a part too. Anna Crew, senior associate in CMS Cameron McKenna’s insurance and reinsurance group, comments, “Despite the recent dip, the level of professional negligence claims post-2007 has remained considerably higher than figures for the preceding years. So, although litigation may have generally reduced, there remains a greater willingness to sue the lawyer in troubled times.”
It will be interesting to see how things play out, but it is likely that it will be some time before we know with any certainty.