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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Solicitors protest against "Tesco Law"

You may have seen in the news a group of solicitors protesting outside of the Royal Courts of Justice about the prospect of supermarkets banks and other non-legal firms offering legal services. They handed out cans of baked beans labelled "Legal Services by Supermarkets is as ridiculous as lawyers selling beans".

Isn't this typical of the legal profession. Opposing competition, 19 months after the passing of the Legal Services Act 2007. Lawyers will not be able to wind the clock back. Pandora is out her box. Solicitors have lost their monopoly.

It would have been far better for solicitors to think how they are going to improve their service rather than expect sympathy from the public by protesting outside the Law Courts. For years solicitors have dispensed diabolical service, with scant disregard for commercial realities and the client's objectives. It is high time the profession had a shake up.

I for one welcome the competition. Tescos and other big legal providers are unlikely to have large in-house legal departments. They will create panels of solicitors who will have to adhere to strict Service Level Agreements which if breached will result in termination of their contracts. They will initially pitch fees at an attractive level for solicitors to build up good quality panels but like the dairy farmers and poultry producers they will then be squeezed and in the end it will only be the law firms who run their operation on industrial factory farming principles who will be able to make a profit.

Will clients benefit from this factory model? Well it will certainly be fixed fees and cheaper than your current high street conveyancer. However, the nature of the operation will mean you are unlikely to be dealing with a qualified solicitor. This may not matter because most people just need to know where they are in the transaction which is mainly an information-giving process.

What should solicitors do? Well, they are still (remarkably) trusted by the vast majority of the public. I believe that providing outstanding levels of personal customised service is the key to the "Tesco Law" alternative. Check out our Client Service Commitments on our web site for an idea of the level of service which law firms will need in order to compete in the new legal market.