The Legal Services Act 2007 introduced the world to the idea of an Alternative Business Structure (ABS). This is of great interest to lawyers but probably means very little to everyone else. But in fact it completely changed the way we go about getting legal advice and representation.
For most of my years in the profession solicitors were allowed to work in partnership with other solicitors. But they were barred from sharing fees with any non lawyers. Barristers were instructed by solicitors and had no direct contact with the public. All this is changing at a bewildering pace. It is now possible for non lawyers to become licensed as legal businesses and this is becoming an attractive proposition.
I have previously mentioned to Eddie Stobart Barrister initiative –
We are seeing other familiar brands moving into legal services by the day. The Co-Operative has been at the head of the queue. Today we have the news that the AA are applying to become an ABS. They have been handling injury claims via law firms for some time and are now planning an expansion into more general legal work. At the same time SAGA, who specialise in the over 50s, are offering legal services. They are offering wills and probate and fixed price conveyancing –
Interestingly one of the most high profile high street brands TESCO has not shown its hand although the whole idea has become known as TESCO Law!
So is this the end of the law firm as we know it? Absolutely not. From my experience clients are interested in getting a professional service from lawyers who that they can trust. There is no guarantee that business will be transferred to SAGA or the Co-Op just because they are a more famous name – and a name associated with another product.
What it does mean is the law firms can not be complacent. They can and will compete with the well known brands but will have to ensure that what they offer is of high quality and reasonable cost. Lawyers will also have to modernise how they do business and how they communicate.
We are in interesting times!