Monday, 2 December 2013

David Johnson

Double congratulations to Weightmans' David Johnson on his appointment as FOIL President this week, as both Weightmans and FOIL are long-standing clients. He is one of the youngest ever FOIL presidents and takes up the role at one of the most challenging times the association has faced, with the upheaval and pace of change in the insurance sector showing no sign of abating. As his new role was reported in the media he stressed his determination to fight the defendant lawyers' corner, at the same time as looking to increase opportunities to collaborate with claimant organisations such as APIL and MASS. This got my attention and keen to know more, I asked to speak to him about it. 

"I'm a firm believer in the "win:win" proposition. Yes, sometimes you absolutely do have to fight, but many times in business there are solutions to be found working together rather than immediately taking an adversarial approach. It's particularly true I believe when it comes to the challenges in the insurance industry. Rather than perpetuating the "them and us" between the defendant and claimant communities, I believe there's a lot to be gained by working on the common ground. And there's more commonality than you might think: for example at the end of the day all sides want to see less money wasted in cumbersome administrative processes, less money drained from the pot by fraudsters and more money going to genuine victims so they are properly compensated according to what they deserve. So plenty we can all work together on. 

"The efficiency point is particularly key in my view, especially since we now have a new norm of fixed fees for claimants in the same way we have had for defendants for a number of years. On the defendant side of personal injury claims, efficiency has long been inherently linked to profitability because our insurer clients have insisted we work on a fixed fee basis. By contrast, claimant lawyers have until very recently worked on an hourly rate basis, so there has been no incentive in the system to keep cases simple and hours down (although good claimant lawyers have always sought to conclude cases quickly, so their clients can be compensated as soon as possible.) Now our business models are more aligned, both sides working on fixed fees (and I expect claimant law firms about to face the same "consolidation" in the industry that defendant firms went through some years ago), we share more affinity than ever before. This has got to promote a better understanding between us and be good for future collaboration.  I'm very optimistic: I can see great opportunities for ever closer working and some exciting solutions being created as a result. It falls upon organisations such as APIL, MASS and FOIL to exploit those opportunities for the common good of their respective members."

Good to know FOIL has appointed such a visionary as president at such a challenging time for the industry. I for one will be watching his lead...
Big excitement this week with the British Legal Awards. If you haven't caught up with the winners list, you can view it here. We were rooting for a number of friends: @HuronLegal, @LOD_Law, @Mayer_Brown_UK, Miranda Correia Amandoeira, Serle Court and @Weightmans.

Love how Legal Week's write-up of the event points everyone to the Twitter hashtag #BritishLegalAwards "to follow the reaction". Yet another example of how Twitter is changing news reporting.
"Selfie" is the new Word Of The Year according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Here's the official definition: "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." Love how the OED's language is still so "Radio 4" even when describing the latest social media memes.

What really tickled me was how the National Portrait Gallery jumped on the news this week to launch a campaign to "keep the world's most expensive selfie" in Britain: Van Dyck's 17th century self portrait. 12.5 million pounds is needed and the gallery is hoping to raise the money from the public: social media is playing a big part - a Twitter hashtag has been set up (#savevandyck) and 5 pound donations are being accepted by text. Love the Art Fund's comment on the campaign: "This is the only 12 million pound selfie in existence. We're bringing all the latest technology to bear on the campaign."

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