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Commenting on the Law Society’s plans to survey members on legal expenses insurance, Richard Finan, Director of Arc Legal Assistance, said: “The customer must be placed at the heart of this issue. Where there are unscrupulous practices that deliberately impede customers’ freedom to choose a solicitor these should be exposed.

“However, a non-Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) panel solicitor must not confuse sound commercial decisions and good customer service practice by a Legal Expenses insurer with dishonesty. Consumers’ rights are protected in statute and common law, and we believe that all reputable LEI providers embrace and operate in accordance with these principals for the benefit of the customer.

“The Law Society must accept that LEI insurers’ two priorities are delivering a high quality claims service to the customer whilst controlling costs. In our experience, many non-LEI panel solicitors continue to charge significantly larger fees, dwarfing those charged by firms that have invested in efficiencies and technology to deliver customer-centric and cost-effective consumer legal services and are therefore placed on LEI insurer panels. Until non-LEI panel firms can compete on this basis, there will always be a driver for LEI insurers to recommend a panel firm over another firm to their customer.”

LEI insurers also have a clear advantage in being able to actively monitor and control service levels delivered under panel arrangements and access to suitably experienced and qualified lawyers, rather than a non-LEI firm’s over reliance on Counsel, incurring additional cost – which is a common occurrence.

“We believe, like the Law Society, that independent solicitors are best placed to serve customers’ interests.  For some in the LEI sector with their own in-house law firms and no independent managing agent, this may be a struggle as there is a real danger that if not managed carefully legal decisions of the law firm may become influenced by the commercial interests of the underwriters.”

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