On the excellent Rob Bryden Show a few weeks ago a comedian remarked about going to his local Co-Op and being surprised at a notice saying “Did you know we now offer legal services?” He remarked “Legal services?! I’m pretty impressed you do Sugar Puffs! Ok, so I’ll have a packet of Hula Hoops, a can of Coke…and I killed a man”
Joking aside, this is what the Legal Services Act 2007 will do, and is already doing, to Legal Services in this country. WH Smith is set to roll out “Legal Help Centres” in stores, and many banks and financial providers are jumping on the bandwagon.
On the face of it, the idea of cheap, accessible, law for all can only be seen as a good thing. Many people cannot afford to go to a High Street Solicitor for advice. Or at least they percieve that they can’t; in reality most High Street firms are very fairly priced, offer an excellent service and the personal touch. You know your case isn’t being handled by someone in a call centre.
Handing over legal services to unregulated service providers often means claims are dealt with, and Wills are written by, unqualified people. There will be a legally qualified “team leader” but I dread to think of the sheer amount of mistakes that will be made. A similar structure already exists in a lot of conveyancing transactions, and the amount of mistakes that have to be rectified are numerous and can be very expensive. I dread to think how this will impact on claims that involve complicated litigation and, particularly, Will Writing.
I appreciate this is a more personal post, but I do feel very strongly that a dergulation of Legal Services will damage the profession and change it into yet another corporate behemoth. I believe law is a very personal and sensitive area and often deals with some of the most difficult periods of a person’s life.
The Legal Services Act 2007, and the resulting “Alternative Business Structure” that it sets out to create is billed as being a way to increase competition and offer a greater range of services to people. The reality is that the range of services already exists on your local high street, and the market is already highly competative.
ABS will swamp the market with giant corparate firms and the personal, accessible and traditional world of the traditional high street solicitor will be lost forever. Because “new” doesn’t always mean “better.”