Business development vs. reputation management?

Posted on: April 1, 2009

Oh dear – it seems that even when you are supremely successful at business development and generate good results for your clients, you can end up suffering at the hands of the media and your reputation takes a bashing.

The mainstream and business news media devoted many column inches last week to Irwin Mitchell. Their sin? Earning £11m (about 10% of their total income) in mostly taxpayers cash for pursuing compensation claims against the NHS (claimant clinical negligence work) and recovering £58m in compensation for its clients – an average of £250,000 per case.

Irwin Mitchell is noted as earning more than double that earned by any other firm carrying out such work – 364 cases. So they are the market leaders and should be congratulated? No – the partners salaries – quoted as averaging £309,000 are mentioned and it is noted that a lot of the cases were on a “no win, no fee” basis which means that the tax payers – rather than private means or insurance companies – met the bill. There were also references to the fact that the head of the clinical negligence team at Irwin Mitchell is married to a leading clinical negligence barrister at Devereux Chambers and there are mentions of the value of the home they live in.

Yet it notes that NHSLA (the National Health Service Litigation Authority) only spent £4.7m defending these cases compared to its overall spend of £633m during 2007/08 in damages and legal costs (up from £579m the previous year). Having worked with firms who had to deal with the NHSLA I wondered whether more attention should be paid to these facts?

Reading through the articles, other law firms were also mentioned:

Leigh Day & Co was noted as having recovered £4.8m for 53 cases on which the NHS spent £1.6m defending. It was also claimed that the highest average bills come from McMillan Williams and Kingsley Napsley with charged £250,000 and £307,000 respectively.

There was a lot of negative press coverage recently about how law firms in the immigration and employment (discrimination) areas were also making a lot of money.

One wonders whether perhaps it should be the law, the compensation rules or the NHSLA and Government bodies that should be in the spotlight – rather than the firms who are simply following the present system and doing their best for both their clients and their firms.

But it does underline the need to consider your PR and reputation management strategies when your business development is really successful.

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