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Arc Legal Group (Arc Legal), the specialist provider of ancillary insurance products and services...
Hello Michael, could you tell us a bit about your role as our Head of Legal Advice?
As Head of Legal Advice, I’m responsible for our in-house legal advice centre in Cardiff.
Through our helpline we provide millions of customers with access to 24/7 legal advice, every day of the year as part of their commercial and personal legal expenses insurance policies.
I joined Composite Legal Expenses in 2016, tasked with bringing some of our legal advice helplines in-house and was responsible for setting up the entire process. Since Composite and Arc Legal merged earlier this year, we have also begun providing advice on a number of Arc Legal schemes.
When growing the in-house team, it was important to me to find advisors who had extensive knowledge of the law and were keen to learn everything there was to know about our products and services, to enable them to give our customers an enhanced customer journey and experience.
Today the Legal Advice department includes 3 solicitors and a paralegal. All Helpline Advisors are able to provide advice on any area of law or any legal matter. The majority of calls to the helpline relate to employment disputes, contract disputes, property owner disputes, commercial disputes and landlord and tenant advice. This generally reflects the kinds of legal expenses products that are offered to our customers, we deal with over 10,000 pieces of advice per year to our customers.
How long have you worked in the legal expenses industry?
I’ve worked in the industry for over 10 years. I qualified as a solicitor in 2012, and my main area of expertise is employment law.
What attracted you to the profession in the first place?
I come from a family of lawyers. My grandmother had a fantastic reputation as a family lawyer where I lived growing up. I guess this made me want to learn more about the profession and always considered a career in law as a possibility. It was only when I started to study law that I found commercial areas more interesting. My first job after university involved advising on employment law, which helped me build up my specialism.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
It’s great to be able to support customers by explaining how the law can help them in their circumstances or where I can help a commercial customer achieve an economically sensible resolution to a dispute.
I really enjoy the opportunity to work closely with other departments in the wider Arc Legal business including the Claims, Underwriting and Sales teams. This collaboration helps me to ensure I have an in-depth knowledge of the products and services we offer across the group and that our Legal Advisors are able to make informed decisions about the best route for customers to follow.
By working together, we can ensure our advice is very much focused on achieving the best outcome for the customer; this could mean the matter can be resolved through telephone advice alone, the client may find a solution via our legal document service, or that a customer needs to enter the claims process to establish whether solicitors can be appointed under their legal expenses policy.
The legal expenses landscape can change very rapidly, what is one of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the past 10 years?
Without a doubt the change in employment law when tribunal fees were brought in in 2013. From this point any claimant wishing to bring a case against their employer would have to pay fees up to as much as £1,200. The aim was to reduce the number of spurious or malicious claims. While the procedures employers needed to follow remained the same, the high fees meant it would be more difficult for employees to enforce their rights.
However, in 2017 the Supreme Court ruled these fees as unlawful as they prevented access to justice for many, which saw a return to the pre-fee process which again made it easier for employees to enforce their legal rights.
This also has a significant impact on the risks involved for employers when making day to day decisions about employees. It makes it essential for businesses to have immediate access to appropriate and professional advice.
We’re currently in the midst of a pandemic and many businesses have been deeply impacted by the lockdown measures, what type of calls are you currently receiving?
We see a spike in call volumes whenever there is an announcement related to the pandemic.
In March some schemes saw call volumes increased by over 400%.
We’ve had to adapt quickly to changes like ‘furlough’ as this is an entirely new concept of employment law. The government guidance has been piecemeal, so this entire area of law has been developing, sometimes on a daily basis, throughout the pandemic.
We also receive lots of calls from nurseries and childminders. We’ve been advising in relation to whether or not any fees can be charged for their services and what funding they may be entitled to. In particular, we’ve been considering whether or not retainer fees could be chargeable.
There has also been guidance issued by the government suggesting that businesses who receive public funding should use that to support the business before considering furlough. We have been providing advice about how these businesses can sensibly proportion these funds.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I joined Composite my colleague advised me to always surround myself with great people, and as a result, I believe I have the best team of Legal Advisors.
This philosophy has allowed me to ensure we can support our clients, particularly when unexpected things happen, such as the massive increase in calls volumes as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite facing almost double our usual call volume in some of the weeks, the team has been incredible, and we were still able to achieve all of our service level agreements.
And finally… what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I really enjoy travelling, either with family or friends. I also enjoy running and try to get to the gym whenever I can. I’m also a bit of a gamer and don’t mind a good series on Netflix.