It is almost impossible to drive along any stretch of motorway in the UK without encountering an Eddie Stobart lorry. They appear to be everywhere. But you would not normally associate them with our justice system. Not until now.
The Company has a sub division known as Stobart Barristers. They are to offer legal services to the public by offering direct access to barristers in relation to legal disputes. This is something which they are permitted to do under legislation going back to 2004. They say that this will cut out solicitors. They will offer a fixed fee, pay as you go, service which will offer clients certainty and affordable advice.
According to the Company’s Legal Officer Trevor Howarth - ‘Our fixed-fee, pay-as-you-go approach gives back control to the individual client and for the time they can stop the process at any stage. From the bar’s point of view, they don’t have the infrastructure or ability to provide the preparatory and litigation work, or the marketing, so we provide that, we are one of the first companies to look at the bar and see the benefits it offers,’
It is tempting to say that they are just jumping on a bandwagon – boom boom! I have joked over the years that some cases are so complex that it would need an Eddie Stobart lorry to deliver the papers to the court. Could we see be-wigged truckers eating Yorkies and preparing closing speeches as they drive from Glasgow to London?
But this is in fact a significant and serious development.This is a major household brand which has developed its own relationship with barristers and is now extending this to the public.
We are going through a period of unprecedented change in legal services. The advent of Alternative Business Structures means that major names such as RAC and the Co-Op can provide legal advice. Now we have the most well known haulage company offering direct access to the bar and excluding solicitors altogether.
It will be interesting to see how this develops. Will clients looking for legal help consider going to this company whose entire identity, however successful, is linked to trucks on motorways? Will cost override all other factors? Or will clients remain loyal to the lawyers they know and love?
What this does mean is that no law firm can afford to be complacent. We need a modern and forward thinking approach to ensure that clients are offered the best advice and help possible at a rate and in a way that is accessible and affordable.