It’s been dubbed “Tesco Law.”
The Legal Services Act becomes law in October and will make the UK one of the most deregulated legal services markets in the world.
The Act allows banks, insurance companies and larger retail brands to provide legal services and it’s already having an impact on the legal profession.
In reality, the focus on the internet makes it like Amazon Law, with companies launching websites offering online services ranging from will writing and probate to personal injury and employment law.
Charles Glover, newly appointed chief executive of South Yorkshire law firm Atteys, sees the changes as very positive for the legal profession, but, Mr Glover is not a lawyer – and that, too, is an example of how some of the more nimble footed of the medium-sized regional firms are reacting to the challenge.
He has more than 20 years experience of owning and running businesses, including Sheffield-based marketing agency Paradigm which he successfully merged with Scope Creative Marketing in 2003 to create Dig For Fire, which was acquired by the AIM-listed Digital Marketing Group in 2006.
Marketing will be important to law firms in the new, competetive era heralded by the Legal Services Act, but that isn’t the only reason Attey’s has appointed him.
“The similarities between the legal profession and marketing are remarkable,” says Glover.
“Ultimately, we are selling intellectual property, and marketing companies have been through so much change – the digital revolution and all that went with it.
“With Paradigm and Dig for Fire, we had to live with change on a weekly basis. It’s something I am very used to and it’s fair to say that the legal profession has been less used to change.”
Glover believes Atteys, which employs 145 people at a head office in Doncaster and branches in Barnsley, Sheffield, Wath upon Dearne and Retford, starts from firm foundations because it has already had to make tough decisions.
In response to the downturn, the company shed its criminal law practice and focused on areas where it believed it has the resources to compete well – family law, conveyancing, personal injury, dispute resolution and company and commercial law.
Now, it is looking at what aspects of those specialisms it might deliver over the internet alone, through the web but with varying degrees of involvement by professional experts, and solely through direct contact between lawyers and clients.
“We are embracing commoditisation in some parts of our business and will be relaunching our web site in response, says Glover, who concedes it could take some time to fine tune the split between services offered over the internet with the involvement of a lawyer and those involving direct contact.
Everyone in the legal sector is puzzling over that question, he says and it could take a while before the answer is known.