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Monday, 19 May 2014

Stobart Barristers run out of gas

Much has been said, and written, about Alternative Business Structures and how they would change the world as we know it. The message was that major national brands such as Tesco’s would take over the provision of legal services and the days of the traditional law firm were numbered. As it was, Tesco’s showed no particular appetite.

One business which did go for legal work in a big way was Eddie Stobart, with their launch of Stobart Barristers,. This was a surprising move which I wrote about way back in June 2012 –

The question I raised back then was how they would bridge gap between the public perception of them at truckers and their ambition to be serious players in the legal market-place. They went for it in a big way. I attended a Legal Futures conference at which Trevor Howarth, then legal director, told us that High Street Firms were effectively finished and this was the model for the future. The name and clout of Eddie Stobart meant that he could provide legal advice from one of his barristers more quickly and cheaply than any of us could achieve. He was a good speaker and it was all quite convincing and worrying.

They caused controversy in 2013 with plans to bid for criminal legal aid work –

But it has now all come grinding to a halt like truck that has run out of fuel. Last week, they announced that they were no longer offering legal services to the public –

Mr Howarth explained that the decision was due to regulatory changes that meant that direct access barristers would now have to take greater responsibility for issues such as client care. That is a very telling statement. You can have the most well known name on UK motorways but if you cannot look after you clients you should not be in this market. Mr. Howarth has now left to set up a new business called One Legal.

So what now for the famed but mythical Tesco-Law? Co-operative Legal Services hardly set the world on fire –

The legal market might have appeared attractive. But it is a tough world which gets tougher by the day. ABS are here to stay and do provided commercial flexibility for many firms.

But does all of this mean that well known brands will stick to what they do best? 

Time will tell, but I think the cataclysmic changes that many predicted are still some distance away.

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