Eastgate Assistance says it has benefited from a decision by rival firm Abbey Legal Protection to hike rates on its conditional fee arrangement after-the-event cover.

It says there has been a dramatic increase in calls from solicitors worried that their clients may be priced out of the market. "It is critical for the success of this type of policy that premium levels remain consistent and affordable," said Eastgate legal expenses manager Adrian Richards.

Abbey, which pioneered this form of insurance in Britain, said it had to raise rates and introduce other controls because of the number of bad risks being put on cover.