I read that a large group of solicitors were outside the High Court in London on Tuesday handing out tins of baked beans from supermarket trolleys! It seems it was a protest against what has become known as Tesco Law.
I am aware that most of my profession is very worried by Tescos being able to offer legal services soon, along with the AA, Co-Op and others. Cynics might say they are worried about their jobs and their incomes but the campaigners say they fear the standards of legal advice will drop as call centres take over.
In my opinion that may happen and there certainly are dangers here. One difficulty with legal advice is that you normally have to be legally qualified and experienced to actually know if it was quality advice or not! I am sad to say that we often see clients who have been advised by an ordinary law firm and who change to us then finding out the standard of the advice has been, frankly, poor. Not wrong, but just very rudimentary. So I think the argument about standards of advice is a little embarrassing for the profession as a whole.
What is great news though is that people such as Tescos will dramatically streamline and improve client service standards and communications. This is the main problem with the legal profession. We should embrace their abilities, work with them, and learn from them. Tescos will have the muscle to force the Government to make the changes needed to allow this, such as Courts accepting e-mail, Courts not insisting upon a separate cheque for each Court fee, issuing online, not listing all Court cases at 10am and so on! Things we have been pressing for for years. Good. Good for us and more importantly good for clients.
I can say that we work on training in client service about 60% of the time and 40% on law. But then we are a specialist family and divorce law firm so we can concentrate our legal learning on one subject. How law firms who have to train in 20 different subjects manage, I do not know!
I hear that one third of law firms will soon cease to exist. I think it will be much more than that. But I know quite a few already that will fail. They won’t use e-mail (yes, honestly!), they write letters it is hard to understand, they take 2 to 3 weeks to reply to a letter, they are rude to clients and don’t explain things. Will they be missed? I doubt it.