Legal services have traditionally been the reserve of solicitors. Over the years they have built up a system that is held slightly in awe by the average person, who often finds the legalese jargon and air of exclusivity a bit of a challenge. It is true that, though generally held in respect, the high street legal services sector can sometimes seem a bit daunting.
However, the Legal Services Act 2007 has changed everything. Alternative Business Structures, or ABS law, now means that any "fit and proper" person can enter the legal services market. No longer is it the sole domain of solicitors, which is why it has been dubbed Tesco law, meaning that even familiar high street supermarkets can now offer a legal service if they choose to become licensed to do so.
This will undoubtedly have a major impact on small high street legal practices. The general idea behind ABS law seems to be that it will open up the legal services market to more people by offering customers more choice. With greater choice it is very likely that costs will be forced lower. This is generally good for the average person in the street, but can small businesses that are legal service providers, the familiar family solicitor if you like, survive this major reorganisation of the legal services sector? It remains to be seen.
As might be expected, there are a few pros and cons to consider. It is very likely that non-solicitor run businesses offering legal advice will primarily be driven by profits with customer care suffering to some extent. The traditional concept of the high street family solicitor, someone who knows you personally, and who handles all your legal needs over your lifetime, providing a comfortable and satisfying level of customer care, is likely to be largely lost when legal services becomes a common commodity for all and sundry to offer.
On the other hand, a traditional high street law service can be very expensive. This has resulted in most people only making use of legal services when they absolutely have to, as with such things as making a will and being divorced, for example. This is mainly why legal aid came into being, as many of the people facing court procedures cannot afford the legal fees, which are usually quite high, even for relatively simple things. One of the reasons for ABS law seems to be a desire to make justice more readily available for all.
There can be little doubt that the average small high street law firm is in for a period of uncertain times. Their survival, or otherwise, is largely up to each individual business. They will have to move with the times, and no doubt market themselves better, possibly focusing on their potential to provide better customer care, a more personalised service that big retail stores might find difficult to provide.
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority, who are now able to grant licence applications to both solicitors and non-solicitors, have their own Code of Conduct that all licensed parties are expected to abide by. There are 10 mandatory principles that apply to all aspects of law practice, and to each business that is licensed. Around half of those principles deal directly with matters that concern client care and protection.
Perhaps this is the area that small high street legal practices can best sell themselves on. There will always be those who seek out the best bargain, but equally, there are plenty of others who will always seek out the best quality service first. One possible solution to the problems facing small high street legal practices is offered by Access Solicitor
They offer invaluable legal help and advice to providers and customers both. They provide a directory platform where solicitors and lawyers can rise above the level of high street retail law services, and where customers can be assured of finding real quality and customer care. In a world of Tesco law where every little helps, Access Solicitor can really help.comments powered by Disqus
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