The region’s legal market is not ready to cope with the anticipated increase in competition that will come from new companies entering the legal sector as alternative business structures.
That is the view of ABC guru Professor Stephen Mayson who spoke at a conference held by the Law Society in conjunction with the Birmingham Law Society.
Speculation is rising that large companies such as the Co-op, AA and Tesco will be keen to set up law firms to increase their range of services to the public when the legal market is opened up in October 2011 so that non-lawyers can own, control and run law firms.
Professor Mayson, strategy and director of the Legal Services Institute at The College of Law told the conference attended by more than 60 lawyers that the latest change will provide the opportunity for ‘sophisticated and successful’ organisations to enter the legal sector.
He said: “These organisations will effectively rewrite the way legal services are delivered and will as a matter of routine consider opening law firms on weekends, providing a 24 hour helpline, offering online fixed price quotes and ensuring a dedicated customer service department.”
Professor Mayson added that law firms should not fear the changes, provided they are willing to adapt the way they currently provide services.
Craig Holt, chief executive of Quality Solicitors supported Professor Mayson’s views and said law firms tend to model themselves on others in the sector and as a result members of the public are unable to distinguish between them.
“He said his aim was for Quality Solicitors (QS) to be different.
Birmingham Law Society President, Dean Parnell who chaired the conference, said legal firms needed to learn from other professions if the sector is to evolve.
He said: “Each of the presenters made some excellent points and perhaps it is time for us – legal profession – to review the way we deliver legal services to the public and to consider new and innovative ways of doing this.
“Remaining shut on weekends, switchboards closing at 5pm and taking the traditional hour for lunch between 1pm and 2pm are unheard of in some of the other service industries such as banking and retail.
“We should start looking at the way other service industries operate to see if we can learn from them.
“We have 10 months to prepare for ABS and if ever there was a time for us to consider whether we can do things better, it is now.”