Legal service: Industry viewpoints

  • Read our cover feature on how retail brands will soon be offering legal advice, here
  • “The advantage that household brands will have over the legal profession is that they are recognised, whereas most lawyers are not”, read more here
  • Read our case study on QualitySolicitors who “want to become the legal equivalent of Specsavers”, here
  • Check out top brands discussing their legal plans, here
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Ian Powell

Business development and communications director Irwin Mitchell (law firm)

There is a need to make legal services more accessible to those who need advice or want to purchase a legal product. The Legal Services Act will create an environment through which new entrants can come into a market that was traditionally the reserve of law firms and offer clients a way to access the services they need.

The common belief is that those consumer services that can be commoditised will be most affected. Some consumer brands will be able to embrace the concept and offer a professional service that will rival many solicitors – others will fail.

We have sought to build awareness of our law firm’s brand within the geographical regions that we service and online, which is increasingly important.

We have also developed white label products and services, supported by insurance and a 24/7 legal helpline, which enables the firm to partner with commercial organisations that are looking to offer their customers legal services. The Telegraph newspaper is an example of this, with its development of Telegraph Legal Services.

Saleem Arif

Chief operating officer, QualitySolicitors (legal franchise brand)

The problem historically has been that if you wanted a really good quality of service, it has been impossible to know who is good and who is not. It has only been possible to compare law firms on price.

The old view that members of the public should be grateful for lawyers’ services has changed. The balance of power has gone the other way and lawyers now have to provide a good level of service and look after their clients properly. Most law firms are not very good at marketing – they are not very good at reaching out to their past clients or attracting new ones.

Elliot Moss

Business development director, Mishcon de Reya (law firm)

The Legal Services Act will allow brands like the Co-op to go into a business area that they were previously prohibited from entering.

This will, therefore, mean that a lot of consumers at the lower end of the market will be able to buy legal services from a brand on the high street that they can trust, rather than a one-man-band solicitor. These companies will be offering all the things that a one-man-band practice just cannot do.

For a great swathe of day-to-day legal stuff for private individuals, this makes a major difference. But high street-branded legal services are for a certain type of person. If you always shop at Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, you are not going to suddenly shop at Lidl. If you come to Mishcon de Reya because you want to pay £500 an hour for a lawyer that is going to offer you specific personal advice, you are not going to go to your local high street brand just because they are called the Co-op or Tesco.

Andrew Morton

Partner and head of affinity solutions, Pannone (law firm)

The most interesting opportunity is for any type of organisation that has a large and loyal customer database, including utilities or supermarket chains. Ten years ago, we would never have expected to be sold insurance by supermarkets, but that is exactly what they are trying to do when you are waiting in the checkout queue.

They are going to want to ’pile them high and sell them cheap’. They are going to want to do commoditised legal services, in so far as you can with legal services. There is not going to be any big explosion of these people working their way into the market during 2012, but the opportunity will gradually become apparent to them. It has rather stayed under the radar so far.

For law firms like ours, it is an opportunity to create the demand by going to brands and showing them where this opportunity lies.

Paul Harding

Principal, ABS Advisory Partners (legal management consultancy)

Solicitors have been in their ivory towers for many years, suggesting that things like house sales and purchases are highly professional processes, whereas consumers have been asking: is it really necessary to do seven years’ training to buy and sell houses? We think it can be done much more cheaply, in a much more friendly fashion.

I am going through this experience with my 80-year-old mother at the moment. It is actually quite a terrifying experience having five solicitors sending you letters that you do not understand. I think accessibility is very important. The Legal Services Act is either going to force prices down or it is going to force standards up, perhaps both. There is no doubt that the accessibility and the friendly nature of the service provision is going to improve what marketers call ’the consumer experience’. That change is what this legislation is all about.

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