If you want to get a glimpse of one possible future for small to medium-sized law firms, you might take a look at the website for Britain’s QualitySolicitors. Launched this Spring, QualitySolicitors is a marketing alliance in which existing law firms become rebranded with the common logos, advertising, and approaches to potential clients. The alliance purports to identify the “best” high street firm or firms in a given area (i.e. firms for clients from the general population).
This is seen by some as a pre-emptive strike against the coming of “Tesco law practices” when the new Legal Services Act is in full force a year from now, allowing non lawyers to invest in law firms. (David Billinsky has written recently here on Slaw about the coming into effect of the Scottish Legal Services Act.) The thought is that by the time Tesco et al. start selling legal services, QualitySolicitors will be a well-established national brand.
This is the pitch on their main website:
QualitySolicitors is an exciting new legal service with branches all across the UK. We’re totally dedicated to providing the very highest standards of customer service. Here at QualitySolicitors, we aim to transform the way you get legal services, making it easy and stress free. There’s no longer any need for you to spend hours trying to choose between dozens of local law firms. Wherever you are, whatever your legal issue – QualitySolicitors is the answer.
The main thrust seems to be to take the fear out of consulting a lawyer: the predominant colour on the website is pink (aiming a women, I’d imagine—though I’m a fan of that colour myself), the spokesperson is the cartoon woman you see above, no one in the many photographs of lawyers is wearing a tie, etc. Most important, the first of their four “promises to you” is “Free first consultation.” (Almost every conversation I have with a non-lawyer who consults me for a recommendation, gets eventually to the worry that they’ll be charged for the time it takes to ask about fees and get an answer.)
The word “best” gets used a lot in their ads, something that they explain to mean “as chosen by you”: in unexplained ways, they have relied on client feedback, in part at least, in choosing which firms may join the network.
Watch their TV spot, below, and you’ll see how carefully they’ve crafted the message: