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Recent changes in the law allow banks and other high street retailers to register to provide legal services so that obtaining legal advice could be, in the words of the Minister of State at the time, “as easy as buying a can of beans”.
The supporters of the Legal Services Act say this frees up access to legal information but its critics suggest that potentially it will reduce the availability of high quality local legal advice provided by specialist lawyers.
Despite the nickname Tesco the largest retailer is yet to take steps into the legal sector but other companies have been more enthusiastic and recently claims management companies and financial institutions have bought legal firms to carry out their work.
Is this the end for traditional firms?
The answer appears to be an emphatic no! Firms like my own provide the full spectrum of legal advice and attract and retain clients by offering advice at the right price provided by lawyers within specialised departments. One of the major disadvantages of larger centralised legal providers is that they are often based some distance away from the clients and many chose to employ fewer qualified solicitors and more paralegals (or even unqualified staff) to undertake bigger volumes of work. Bigger does not always mean better.
Are they cheaper? The consumer magazine Which recently did research in the area of probate and found that most banks charge on average twice more than solicitors in independent practices for exactly the same service. Many clients returning to us after initially being referred by national conveyancing firms by their bank have complained that whilst the headline quote may be cheap there are numerous additional fees added into the final bill that in fact make them more expensive. Recently a large financial institution cut it’s panel of solicitors that it was willing to deal with down from a number of thousand to 43. Questions are being asked in the legal press about whether this is a wise move and less providers will mean less competition on price or quality.
At this firm we believe that there should always be a place for local and specialised advice provided at the right price and firms that invest in the staff will continue to offer both a local and friendly service and departments staffed with specialist solicitors and continue to succeed.