It has been fascinating to watch the rise of Eddie Stobart as a player in the Legal Services Market. I first mentioned this last year with the news that the company was using its direct access to Barristers as a way of offering similar access to clients using its brand and size to guarantee service levels and low cost. This led to the inevitable jokes about wig wearing truckers delivering briefs across the land and eating Yorkies!
I heard the company’s legal director Trevor Howarth last year and it soon became clear that this was genuine move into the marketplace and one to be taken very seriously.
They were in the news again a few weeks ago when they declared an interest in bidding for a contract to carry out criminal legal aid work following proposals to sell that work off to the lowest bidder –
At that time I questioned whether they would be able to offer a service that could come anywhere that offered by law firms across the country.
Well we now have the news that the company has been granted and ABS licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). So effectively they can now operate as a full blown law firm and offer legal services across the board. ABSs were created by the Legal Services Act to bring about entities such as this – big, powerful players who have the strength and size to revolutionise legal services. Others are making similar plans.
Will these developments mean the inevitable demise of local, high street law firms offering a personal service to ordinary people? I don’t think that will happen. I believe that clients will still prefer to instruct their own lawyers. But anyone who ignores what is happening could well be doomed. Gone are the days when they could just rely on their professional status and qualifications. Clients want a high quality service at a fixed fee from providers who communicate in way that is clear and understandable. Those firms who embrace change will still have a role. Although the days of the ‘fat cat’ lawyers are probably numbered – no bad thing!
Have we created a monster here? No – but I do think the world is changing!