Magazine article Management Today

Covering the Case

Magazine article Management Today

Covering the Case

Article excerpt

COVERING THE CASE Around two years ago, an enterprising group of journalists thought it would be a good idea to publish a glossy, stimulating magazine for lawyers that would both inform and entertain its audience - a sort of legal Management Today. It was a good-looking and well-written product, but unlike the august and flourishing organ for which I write, the legal magazine foundered within months.

The reason, I reckon, is that lawyers divided their time differently from managers. Having worked all the hours that God sends them, lawyers usually pass their leisure time calculating their fees and posting the bills off to their clients.

In fact, while you have been reading this, a legal bill might have just landed on your doorstep. And, unless you are exceedingly rich or have assets and income low enough to qualify you for legal aid (and I do mean low - the limits are not generous), the chances are that the size of the bill will scare the living daylights out of you. If you have just won an action, say against an incompetent tradesman, your award may just about cover your costs. If you lost, paying the bill will compound your misery.

Unless, of course, you were far-sighted enough to take out legal expenses insurance.

Legal expenses insurance has been around in Britain for almost 15 years, but can hardly claim to be one of the great success stories of the British insurance industry.

Even today, after strong growth in the last three years, total annual premium sales are estimated by industry sources at 45 million [pounds] - roughly the same income as that from all insurance policies taken in three days by an industry giant such as Sun Alliance. By contrast, the ultra-cautious West Germans plough in something like 1 billion [pounds] a year to cover their legal backs, with some 53% of households covered.

So what does it do? Basically, a full-blown legal expenses policy will pay the lawyers' fees if and when you pursue or defend actions against other parties across a variety of fields - such as motoring accident costs not covered by your standard insurance policy; disputes with the plumber or electrician over shoddy workmanship; contract disputes with your employer, and so on. What it will not do is give budding litigants a chance to let rip in the courts.

Companies generally have a right of veto over whether a case can be pursued, and existing vendettas are also excluded. Certain areas tend to be ruled out completely - `non-contentious' cases, such as conveyancing, and crimes involving violence or dishonesty. Comparing policies is always difficult and the legal expenses area is no exception. The four major groups in the business are Allianz (part of the giant German insurance group), DAS, IRPC and the Legal Protection Group. …

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