What a difference a year makes!

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Here we have an article from Legal Futures, one of the websites where the new Beagle venture, LB Compare, has been published. Back then, Kate, one of the owners of Legal Beagles, was “swamped with work” and Legal Beagles was allegedly driving Quality Solicitors’ consumer credit growth. The article clearly states that Kate was getting most of her clients through Legal Beagles, clearly the reason why she was hired by Howlett Clarke, otherwise why would they hire here when there are so many qualified people around and she had just begun her CILEx studies?

The article says “through LegalBeagles, she began working remotely on a consumer credit cases for a law firm in Wales”. Actually, she started working for that firm on a credit default case on behalf of someone who was very close to Kate; so far so good. What they’re not telling us is that she LOST that case, yet she carried on working for the firm, no doubt because of the potential for referrals from Legal Beagles. The article says that the firm in question closed, this was because the guy who ran it was made bankrupt after not being able to meet his tax obligations. Not Kate’s fault but I’m sure the pattern here is obvious: they were desperate for cash and Kate could potentially bring clients from Legal Beagles.

Legal springboard

What all this shows is that Legal Beagles was not just in place to help people and its owners ran it purely for altruistic reasons. It is clear that Kate used the site to get herself into the legal profession despite her lack of formal qualifications. Legal Beagles was referring people to these firms behind the scenes, which is fair enough and, as the article says, a number of cases would have been handled on a CFA (conditional fee) basis. For those not familiar with the term, it’s roughly similar to what’s known as “no-win-no-fee”, meaning the legal costs do not have to be paid by the client from their own pocket. All well and good, but it does go to show the site wasn’t just there for the good of the people, but mostly for the good of a very few people.

Significant growth over the past two years thanks to dedicated posters

All the while, a number of people were contributing to its growth, so much so that its overall membership base doubled in the past two and a half years, from 35,000 back in the summer of 2013, which is where the alleged £35m offer/valuation/fiction/opium dream, whatever you want to call it, came from, to 70,000 members at the time the LB Compare articles were published. Not bad at all, even if, as stated under quantity over quality and the numbers game, the raw figures do not tell the whole story.

Referral mechanism in place behind the scenes

There was an element of legal referrals behind the whole operation, which is fair enough when people needed professional help, and no doubt there are many cases when that’s what’s required, as opposed to amateurs with an exaggerated sense of self-importance like Nemesis, who think they know everything about every subject and no-one cares to check the accuracy of what they are posting. However, anyone attempting to recommend another legal services provider, either from personal experience or based on an acquaintance’s, would swiftly join the illustrious Ban Club.

All change!

Kate’s employment with Howlett Clarke would probably have made it difficult for them to offer a legal services comparison site as this would mean not only  a conflict of interest, but also the potential for people to rate them below other participants. There would also have been room for other participating firms to wonder about the impartiality of the whole ratings system when one of the owners was an employee of a specific firm. Kate’s departure from HC clearly paved the way for this new venture.

Web forum drives QS firm’s consumer credit growth
The LegalBeagles web forum, set up by a Brighton litigation executive, is providing the town’s oldest law firm with a stream of consumer credit work and what is thought to be the first bank charges court victory since 2007.

Kate Briscoe, who works at QualitySolicitors Howlett Clarke, set up LegalBeagles in 2007 with friend Sharon Coleman. The forum currently attracts almost 9,000 unique visitors a day.

Ms Briscoe, who is training to become a chartered legal executive, said the site had experienced “crazy growth” in the last couple of years, creating a lot of work for the law firm.

“We get a lot of inquiries and we have to turn away quite a few,” Ms Briscoe said. “Those we can’t help we give good advice on how to negotiate and settle cases.”

The work is handled by a team including fellow litigation executive Paul Tilley, also training with CILEx, partner Jackie Gillespie and chartered legal executive Victoria Shepherd.

Ms Briscoe ran her own building firm in London for 10 years, where she experienced being on the receiving end of bank charges. She closed down the firm to start a new career as a family lawyer, but was advised against it during work experience. Instead she went on to become an operations and facilities manager at Brighton and Hove council, managing 52 staff. She left the council in 2012.

The following year, through LegalBeagles, she began working remotely on a consumer credit cases for a law firm in Wales. When that closed, she got a job as a consumer credit specialist with QS Howlett Clarke.

Ms Briscoe said most of her clients contacted her through LegalBeagles. “Within a month of joining Howlett Clarke we were swamped with work,” she said. “The majority of cases have to be done on conditional fees. We have to risk assess cases very carefully and I can’t deny that I cherry pick.” Ms Briscoe said the law firm had redeployed staff to help her from its personal injury department, such is the volume of work.

The firm successfully represented Oliver Foster-Burnell earlier this summer against Lloyds TSB in a case at Taunton County Court. The bank was ordered to reimburse Mr Foster-Burnell with the £743 it had charged, plus interest, and a further £1,000 for damaging his credit reference file.

Deputy District Judge Stockdale held that the unarranged overdraft charges levied on Mr Foster-Burnell were contrary to the requirements of good faith under section 5(1) of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

“Banks have to take notice of this,” Ms Briscoe said. “This case is not going to stay at Taunton”. She said Lloyds TSB still had time to appeal, but if they decided not to, the firm could launch its own appeal.

5 Comments

  1. grimreaper says:

    Definitely all change. Ho Hum. Over the weekend I have been looking at a totally different website and format called Legal Beagles. Both my desktop pc and tablet matched. OOH Whoopee! nice shiny new toy. More awkward of course. Today, I go over there for a look and guess what? I am looking at the OLD format website and forum. All access by me has been made via the same Google search link. Is it me? In the words of Mr Wogan.

  2. BillK says:

    Perhaps you stumbled upon the new ‘Legal Chameleons’ site, GR – where they change their appearance and morals to suit their circumstances. Yesterday a free self-help advice forum for those in need of help – today an advice agency for those who can afford it.

    But we already have ‘Go Compare.com,’ and ‘Confused.com’ – so perhaps we are looking at the new ‘Identity Crisis.com’ self-harm advice forum – where you can get free assistance to lose an arm and a leg, or perhaps simply be left to quietly bleed to death whilst waiting.

  3. grimreaper says:

    Chameleon is right Bill. However the shiny hew toy must have been the Android (ho ho) version as its still on the tablet but not on PC. How the hell that happened I don’t know but please all check your systems, I had a couple of nasties on my Facebook account today and I have deactivated it plus network troubles here with browsers. I let admin know that I was having troubles getting on here like FORBIDDEN EEK!. Have cleaned a load up tonight but there is a conflict with IE11, Bing and all its add ons and Firefox which I use.

  4. BillK says:

    Rumour has it that the Allsorts box was targeted by a death ray earlier, so that might explain some of your problems GR. Of course, we have NO IDEA whodunnit, do we ? But all it has achieved is to demonstrate how low they are prepared to stoop in order to try and silence those who question them. They’re not doing themselves any favours by demonstrating that they have the morals of sewer rats.

  5. grimreaper says:

    That explains a lot Bill Thank you. I had been reading here early on and came back a little later error 508, Ok understand. Then much later had the 408 error. Had the “nasties on my Facebook account and had to deactivate it for now. Then not on this machine but on the desktop machine my wife uses Firefox refused to respond, just a tab heading and blank page with the message. We have all our stuff here inherited from the business networked, shared printers and the like, hence within minutes this machine was down. Router had to be reset, Firefox on the other machine by now corrupt , I mean corrupt and on it goes had to use IE which forced an update it was a nightmare. Even using MSE at this stage to scan was blocked. So yes somebody is playing some very silly games. however I would point out due to other battles I am having over the NHS, it has come to my attention that there is a very specialist unit belonging to the City of London Police (not Met.) which allegedly has the expertise, seniority AND the jurisdiction to move in on anyone anywhere in the UK for this sort of “cyber” thing and fraud. The general local forces don’t like us knowing about it because they are about as much liked as internal affairs “rubber heels”. Certainly what came out of it is that there is some additional conflict between IE11 (and all the pap it forces you to have like Bing) and Mozilla’s Firefox. browser. Hope this helps anyone else with these problems.

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