John Cook, Tony Butterworth and Vikki Todd
Vikki Todd

Member Article

Specialism is the key

The legal world as we all know it is changing, and that pace of change will only increase in 2012 and beyond.

The Legal Services Act 2007 created a framework for different types of organisations to offer legal services under a new regulatory framework. Often referred to as “Tesco Law” the new law allows companies and individuals from a non-legal background to own law firms. These types of provider, known as Alternative Business Structures are already providing legal services. The Solicitors Regulation Authority licensed the first Alternative Business Structures on 28 March this year. In all three firms were licensed, including the Co-Operative Legal Service.

So, should we all close our doors and run for the hills? Absolutely not! Many lawyers think this will be the end but in practice what this means is that consumers will have greater choice. One size does not fit all. Some consumers are happy to deal remotely whilst other consumers, particularly the elderly, need a face to face meeting.

There is undoubtedly an over-supply of lawyers in some areas but conversely there is still room to innovate. Some academics believe there will be a complete polarisation of legal services and that many basic transactions will be automated and delivered via standardised processes whilst at the other end of the spectrum large commercial firms will continue to handle complex legal issues for larger clients.

The reality is far more likely to be somewhere between the two. Our research has shown us that a significant amount of clients still place value on obtaining advice from a their lawyer and being able to discuss their needs in a traditional environment. Others are happy to purchase pre-populated documents from the internet.

Clients are increasingly internet-savvy and are happy to shop online. Historically, electronic services have been limited in the main to services such as conveyancing and wills but of course many other legal services are capable of being delivered electronically.

The key to survival in our new market is not size – it’s specialisation. There are boutique firms providing complex commercial advice (sometimes based at home!) and large commoditised centres providing excellent service in certain practice areas. There is no right and wrong answer to the delivery of legal services. The key is that the consumer has a choice as to which type of service the buy.

At Butterworths, we’re already looking at ways in which we can support our business and commercial clients via services which are delivered electronically. We’re already delivering key case documents to our clients and other lawyers via web and email (and on CD-ROM if necessary!) and there’s more to come.

The difference in the future will be how legal services providers market to consumers (of any description) and how that service is delivered. There is no doubt that some consumers will be happier with brands they recognise, but not all. We’re happy to view the Co-Op and other new entrants as our competition and are happy to compete with them focussing on our own strengths and what we can do to make our clients lives and business affairs that little bit easier.

The future is here, and we’re looking forward to it.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Vikki Todd .

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