Irwin Mitchell has launched an internal review as it braces for the impact of upcoming law reforms on its volume personal injury business.

Changes being brought in by the Civil Liability Act are set to shake the entire PI sector, not just Irwin Mitchell. Under the new legislation, PI firms will essentially be unable to recover their legal costs for road traffic accident claims under the value of £5,000 and under £2,000 for other PI claims. The government had originally planned to introduce the changes in August 2020, but the implementation has now been delayed until April 2021 (although the exact date could shift again due to the impact of Covid-19). 

The new rules will result in ambulance-chasing firms having to abandon lower value PI work, as individuals will process small claims (such as whiplash) themselves using online portals, without legal advice. PI firms will have to adapt by scrambling to compete for higher value claims instead.

With lower value work drying up, it could also mean a reduction of those unsolicited calls by claims management companies spuriously asking people about the car accident they've just had (even when they don't drive). Although those call-centres will undoubtedly find other ways to pester people.  

Call centre

"Hi, I understand you're a law firm that's suffered a head-on collision with the Civil Liability Act.

One source told RollOnFriday that Irwin Mitchell's review of the impact of the Civil Liability Act had been given the "odd name" of Project Tesla - perhaps with a Tesla car in mind, that's run out of battery and about to breakdown. The source said "it looks like the end of the fast track work". Another insider was more upbeat, saying that Irwin Mitchell's volume PI business had work beyond that being impacted by the new legislation. 

While staff will clearly be worried about job losses, an insider told RollOnFriday that despite the reforms no large scale redundancies were planned at this stage. 

“It’s important that we prepare for the upcoming Civil Liability Act law reforms and the potential impact it may have on lower value personal injury work." a spokesman for Irwin Mitchell told RollOnFriday. “We constantly review all lines of work we undertake and it is natural that we have a team that’s examining the potential implications to our business and our potential response to it."

The spokesman added that the firm does not yet know all the details of how the reforms will be implemented so it was still reviewing the "potential actions" it might take in response.

It is a headache that Irwin Mitchell and other PI firms could do without on top of Covid-19. It comes at a time when PI firm Slater and Gordon is closing its London office as part of a plan for staff to work from home permanently. 

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 19 June 20 09:06

I joined Irwin Mitchell's London office a while ago and they were (at the time) apparently enthusiastic about developing a strong commercial offering. After about 6 months in, it became clear that that was not a realistic outcome for a firm so wedded to PI and the old dinosaurs living the old "glories" of Lockerbie, the 1985 Manchester air disaster, Piper Alpha and Thalidomide. Even the private client team was mainly about advising claimants about investing their PI damages. Like me, most of the lawyers with commercial specialisms drift away, disheartened and crestfallen, with an IM-shaped blot on their CV. I have honestly thought about omitting them from my CV and referring to my time there as a "sabbatical" (which is kind of true in many ways).

PI work 19 June 20 09:07

Not helped by the fact work related and car related accidents have reduced massively due to the lockdown.

IM has tried and tried to expand its commercial offering but it has repeatedly failed.  Such failures are largely down to its uncanny ability to appoint the wrong people to oversee and manage those who have been recruited.

A significant and costly merger but still no further forward due to departures caused by IMs perennial problem of picking the wrong people to manage its attempts to expand into commercial law.

Right strategy but poor implementation and now the chickens will come home to roost as the PI work starts to dry up and IMs debt pile starts to become an issue.  

Bloodbath 19 June 20 10:23

A merger would make sense but what a bloodbath! Be a difficult deal to broker so many high paid executives on both sides.

I name this ship Slater Gordon Irwin Mitchell 19 June 20 10:24

Just beware the icebergs ahead.

"Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,

Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.

He sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag,

You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me."

All Together Now.....

The S-GIMP 19 June 20 10:59

A merger is a top idea, a PI powerhouse the like of which the world has never seen before.


Could be named the Slater Gordon Irwin Mitchell Partnership, also known by its very catchy acronym, S-GIMP.

The S&G Mantra 19 June 20 12:08

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

Snitchel Merger 19 June 20 14:24

Or two drowning men grabbing hold of each other whilst being battered by a sea of reforms?


John Robinson 19 June 20 14:48

Irwin Mitchell have been good to me over the years. I don't think this hate towards them is warranted?

Anonymous 19 June 20 15:10

Can't see an IM/S&G merger going ahead. How would combining their huge debts help either firm? S&G esp need investment, not a merger. They'd also have two white elephant offices in Manchester staring at each other across the street. Both tied in to long term leases, just when no-one wants big offices any more. Be amazed if it actually happens but with poor senior management teams on both sides, rule nothing out. 

Anonymous 19 June 20 15:19

Another blow for IM. Yet another 3 business partners left this month. Now this. And Covid will have hurt the PI business. The firm relies on that income. Sadly for all those IM people, esp the long servers, past mistakes & frankly arrogance at senior levels are coming back to haunt them.

Some of the vitriol towards IM isn’t warranted though. There are decent people there who’ll suffer through this and deserve better. 

ShoeLaneSmiths 19 June 20 17:52

I went back to my firm's office briefly and peered into IM's London office which we overlook. It's like the Marie Celeste (an simile which could probably be extended somewhat in the light of this news piece).

Anonymous 20 June 20 08:23

Is there anybody left who might fall for the IM “we are really serious about becoming a commercial player” routine?

Unfortunately for IM nobody believes it any more.  Another 3 non-PI partners exit and IM is back in the market competing against true commercial firms for  lawyers who can build a business.  
IM does not have a credible pitch because it has consistently messed things up by putting the wrong people in charge of its commercial growth strategy.

It will no doubt pick up some commercial lawyers on the back of redundant lawyers coming into the market.  We will see the usual fanfare as they recruit but it will end the same way as it always does.  Glorious failure followed by the “we are really serious this time” routine and off we go again.


Kenneth Mitchell 20 June 20 09:57

Why don’t commercial & PI lawyers mix well? The PI teams keep you alive in recession (we have one of those coming), and the commercial boys make the mega bucks in good times. Recognising that the world has ups and downs, you’d have thought this might work. 
Then came Jackson...

Steve Reed 20 June 20 19:30

It could not have come at a better time horrendous and prolonged exposure of their their combined failures to play fair within the boundaries  of common and criminal law. Nefarious individuals from Tucker downwards. It all out there!

Toddler 20 June 20 20:46

An ambitious toddler could tackle a low value PI matter (on either side of the fence). These reforms are LONG overdue. It's time for these lawyers to be lawyers again.

Ex IM 21 June 20 18:09

When I was there we had a volume debt recovery lawyer, a volume conveyancer and a volume private client lawyer in charge of business legal services.  They were individually and collectively incapable of winning the respect of any of the guys doing proper legal work.  It was like being managed by the 3 stooges and whilst it’s fun to look back and laugh now I remember being astonished and horrified in equal measure during the short time I was there.  Leaving was so liberating.

Simpleton 21 June 20 20:39

If I'M and SG fail so will the defendant lot who rely on these claims factories for income streams too.  All that lobbying to government and with the ABI for PI reform was like turkeys voting for Xmas.  

Anonymous 22 June 20 12:55

In the last year, the merry-go-round at IM has picked up pace. Any credible business services partners have now left following mismanagement, many with their respective teams. This includes most from the former Thomas Eggar part of the business. They are not replaced and other teams are simply relocated to plug the gap. There is then a huge fanfare when an unrelated partner is appointed to bolster a private wealth team. Perhaps IM should just give up on trying to be something they're not, i,e, a credible commercial firm and stick to the ambulance chasing they do well. I wonder what the former Thomas Eggar would now look like if the IM merger (takeover) didn't happen. 

I do feel sorry for those still at IM as most are genuinely nice people and decent lawyers just stuck in the wrong place. 

09.57 post and PI elves 22 June 20 18:13

The reasons PI lawyers and commercial lawyers don’t mix well are;

PI lawyers want to sue your clients and at a volume PI outfit the PI lawyers hold sway so they do sue your clients.

In house counsel and big business owners get fed up of receiving trip and slip claims from volume PI outfits so the commercial lawyers battling away valiantly within the PI outfits have nigh on zero chance of winning a competitive tender or getting a chance to do commercial work for those regularly targeted by the PI elves.  

Never the Twain shall meet so if you are a commercial lawyer then don’t take a detour to a PI outfit however much it claims it intends to change.


Anonymous 22 June 20 21:11

38 partners left IM in 2019 as recorded at Companies House.

That number speaks volumes.  
God only knows what it will be after the carnage of 2020.


another anonymous 23 June 20 07:35

@Anonymous12.55. What’s “an unrelated private wealth partner”?  I am in the private client team and can’t think of anyone like that since I’ve been here. Genuinely intrigued.  We’re actually pretty good at what we do and the L500 rankings etc reflect that.

Anonymous 24 June 20 09:30

@Anonymouse07:35. An unrelated private wealth partner is someone unrelated to the commercial departee's discipline. I'm sure you are nice and good at your job, but that doesn't change the fact that commercial partners leave IM in droves and there is then a celebration when non-commercial partners are appointed.  The only commercial partners who seem to remain are mainly brown-nosers and those seeing out their career. You're probably best off out of there if you are nice and good. 


Embarrassing 24 June 20 10:02

If I worked in volume PI, I'd say: 'Oh, erm, I'm in-between things right now...' when asked by friends and family what I do for work. PI is simple awful.

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