Curse of the sausage factory

One cannot help be dismayed by Ms Stokes' story (Features, 10 March) and I cringe to be associated as a professional colleague of the Herbert she describes. The failure to meet a severely traumatised client or attend the inquest leaves me speechless.

I suspect she is one of 20% made worse by the litigation as highlighted in last year's ABI/IUA report. I note the struggle to fund disbursements and wonder if her before-the-event (BTE) is one of the "shadow" policies Peter Dobie highlighted (News, 24 February). I suspect her 'solicitor' may be in fact a paralegal (and hence did not attend the inquest). I note junior counsel was poorly briefed and late.

No immediate needs assessment under the rehab code has been considered; presumably the 'solicitor' has no funding for a unilateral instruction.

The simple truth is that many members of my profession have now set up the 'sausage factory' of injury work to make fees of £250,000 per annum from paralegals paid £20,000 per annum. Often referral fees are then paid to BTE insurers (many of whom are also liability insurers). Fees are split with medical agencies and commissions are paid on insurance.

Computers record notional attendances.

Ms Stokes may find she is recorded as having met her 'solicitor' for an hour before the hearing.

Liability insurers have long fought the rising tide of costs but now the other side of the same coin can be seen; that profiteering is sucking out resources that should be used for the benefit of the client.

If there is a line in the sand it must be drawn by, particularly, liability insurers who now control much of the market. There are no easy answers to how to provide a good service in bulk.

In the short term Ms Stokes will find there are many dedicated, experienced and committed lawyers who would fall over themselves to act for her.

Finally, the quality management team of the ATE/sausage factory concerned should be cursed. As I write, they are preparing their explanation as to why this is good service, and an opportunity to enhance their market.

Andrew Sharpe