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Minster’s peer review sessions – lowering costs and improving outcomes

As one of the largest Serious Injury teams in the country Minster Law has a wealth of experience and expertise, with solicitors who specialise in varying illnesses and accident types – the introduction of a peer review forum has enabled the team to better work together on delivering the best outcome for every client.

Having participated in multiple peer review sessions Associate Solicitor Shaun Walker is able to see the value they provide, both in the advice he has been able to offer his co-workers and the feedback he has received to help with his own claims.

The open table meeting, which is facilitated by technical manager Richard Harwood, allows for solicitors to gain from the expertise of their co-workers, but also as a space for discussion and learning on legislative developments.

Anything can be brought to the forum, from questions around potential liability disputes to wanting recommendations for a leading rehabilitation expert or medical opinion for a client.

Shaun said they were each required to attend one of the two meetings held each month, although these have been increased to one meeting per week to provide additional support during lockdown.

“In a typical meeting the chair will run through relevant cases which have come on the radar in the last month, as well as referring to any changes in Civil Practice Rules and procedures,” he said.

“Fee earners are actively encouraged to provide reported cases which would be of interest for the group and it provides an opportunity for learning and to gather advice from people who are experts in certain areas.”

The benefit of these meetings is both to Minster Law and its clients, by gathering advice from each other rather than immediately going to Counsel, solicitors are able to reduce case costs, but most importantly they are able to apply vast expertise to each client’s case.

Having specialists in different areas means they are able to become experts in their field, then share this information with each other.

Following the meetings, the minutes are disseminated to the wider team where relevant.

“A spirit of collective responsibility is actively encouraged in order for the file handler with a difficult case to have the support and comfort of knowing they have the backing of the wider team on tactics to employ in proceeding further with the claim,” Shaun said.

A file handler will be given the opportunity to present the case, invariably with the use of evidential material and indicate their own view on prospects or how the claim should proceed.

“There then follows an open discussion on the pros and cons of adopting certain positions, which can be a five-minute unanimous decision or much lengthier debates, until a consensus of opinion is reached on how to proceed,” Shaun said.
“The file handler is then able to leave the peer review with a fully supported plan on where to go next with the file, or in cases where we are unable to provide a consensus they then go to Counsel with a better understanding.”

Another element of peer review is the opportunity for Grade A solicitors to present claims where offers have been made by third parties, or where they wish to make an offer against third parties.

“This forms part of the firm’s internal auditing procedure and is a sense check and checklist for file handlers to consider before proceeding further in the consideration of an offer received or to be made,” Shaun said.

“A similar process is followed prior to the issue of proceedings.”
File handlers widely report how extremely important the peer review sessions are to them in the management of cases and the ability to best provide for clients.
“There is no substitute for a group to assess the merits of often difficult claims, so the file handler is able to leave a meeting knowing they have the support of the wider group,” Shaun said.

“A real sense of collective responsibility is then instilled in the attitude and culture of the team, and it is certainly not risk adverse and are prepared to support difficult liability claims to trial.”