Local newspapers herald the arrival of a new ‘super brand’ for the legal profession and as a saviour for local legal practices against the challenge of competition when the flood doors open later in the year.
Its is true that the arrival of the Legal Services Act in October will without doubt change the legal landscape when it allows the likes of the AA, SAGA, and others to offer legal services direct to the public.
However I have strong reservations that national schemes that prey on the fear of unprepared and ill informed legal practices should be viewed as they purport as the only lifeline available. I also question whether these schemes have the depth of resources to compete at the same heights as well established and widely recognised brands such as the Co-Op.
It is inevitable that there will be increased competition after October but we should not as a profession panic and jump on the first bandwagon that emerges. Death will not arise as soon as the LSC act becomes law. It will take a short while before the large corporate concerns begin to have some impact on the market. There is still therefore time to make informed decisions and to look at alternatives.
The lure of a being part of a new so called national brand may be strong, but we must pause and ask ourselves whether these providers have the same sized pockets as those companies which they will be competing with in the future. Can they sustain lengthy and costly marketing campaigns? Do they already have a large national database of customers and others arms of business or linked business for cross sale opportunities? How long will these schemes be around for? Can they seriously describe themselves as a new ‘super brand’?
More importantly why would you wish to co-brand your legal firm with a new un-tested brand name when you have worked so hard to create within your local area goodwill based on your trading name? It just does not make sense. What happens if one of the other firms within the scheme and which shares your new ‘super brand” trading style messes up and lands themselves on the front page of the Daily Mail?
The fear firms who do jump too early must be that if the new ‘super brand’ flops or runs out of money, or suffers from adverse publicity, how will those firms fare in the market in trying to revert back to where they were before they sold their souls to these schemes.
My belief is that firms should band together and create local networks and to establish their own marketing hubs. This is not difficult; it just needs like-minded firms to see the benefits of promoting the network to local people and to invest money in trying to keep legal work locally. In Norfolk and Suffolk we are looking to establish one of these networks with the help of local accountants, bankers, and other professionals.
Keeping work local and looking at ways of making legal services and products more accessible to the consumer is essential for future survival and offers a solid and more sensible alternative to the national schemes making the rounds. I am more than happy to share with others the model we have for our local network – without charge I should add!