The Future of Legal Services?

There’s an interesting debate raging in the legal press and blawgosphere about the introduction of ‘Alternative Business Structures‘ (ABSs).

ABSs are the previous government’s attempt to open the legal industry up to more competition by allowing investment by people and firms who aren’t lawyers in the hope that the new partners can drive a sea change in the provision of legal services: hence the term ‘tesco law‘.

Whilst many changes proposed by governments of whatever persuasion are opposed (just look at the opposition to the proposed cuts to legal aid), Tesco Law has had some relatively favourable reviews in the press.

A recent offering on the subject on Charon QC offers the alternative view – predictably from a practitioner.

Personal injury and conveyancing have been commoditised for years, though with the difference that solicitors face competition from licensed conveyancers and competition between firms has driven the price down. The experience has left many clients and solicitors with a bitter taste: in order to drive down costs unqualified staff are used, mistakes made and customer service suffers – then the firms go bust and leave everyone else paying for their mistakes through higher insurance premiums.

So what is everyone so worried about? Is there really just a choice between your traditional high street practice and the bulk factory firms? We don’t think so.

The real question to ask is why do people think these companies – Tesco et al – will be able to swan into a mature market and take the clients from law firms? Well obviously a recognised brand and the ability to invest are powerful business tools but in large part it comes down to the fact that many solicitors aren’t giving people want they want, which is a knowledgeable, friendly, efficient and accessible service.

At we’re not too worried what the future holds. We think that if we continue to offer a decent, fixed price for a quality probate service, we can take what the supermarkets throw at us.

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