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Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Law in WHSmiths? Quality Solicitors Law Society Gazette ad

We received our copy of the Law Society Gazette yesterday with an advert attached for Quality Solicitors. They have teamed up with WHSmiths to offer legal services from a range of WH Smiths outlets and there appears to be a recruitment drive for more firms to join the operation in light of this and other expansion.

I was thinking about the WH Smith side of things and noticed that the advert gives 2 scenarios for customers considering which solicitor to instruct - Scenario 1 - Yellow Pages, telephone quotes, internet search and then needing to book time off work to see a traditional solicitor operating during standard office hours, unfriendly receptionists giving quotes, paying up front fees, and nervousness about being in a solicitors office. Scenario 2 - go into WHSMiths and see a Quality Solicitors firm when shopping on a Saturday.

From a marketing perspective, I think the approach Quality Solicitors have taken is commendable. They have obviously invested money in pushing a national brand and aim to get themselves noticed by consumers and business.

However I have been thinking about the WH Smiths side of things and wondering how much of the scenario played out on the front of the flyer is actually ever going to happen.

The last time I needed a solicitor it was for commercial litigation. I looked at, found the local firms recommended for the work, checked out a few websites to see who was up to date and contactable by email and then called a couple for a price. I spoke to partners on both occasions and got competitive quotes. My decision to go with one firm rather than the other was based on price at the time.

The previous time before that was for a will. I looked at, found out who the highly regarded local firms were, called up and spoke to a legal executive and booked an appointment once the price was established. This was based on expertise and reputation, both very easy to research now on the web with online directories and forums.

Personally I am not sure a consumer or businessman would ever want to discuss a legal issue with a lawyer, paralegal or sales person in WHSmiths (my apologies to Quality Solicitors - I couldnt tell from your ad which of these would be present - please email to add into the article) on a shopping trip on a Saturday. My wife would probably have kittens for starters, and I wonder whether people will think that the business is claims management or some sort of franchise being operated like a will writers business. Would I get to speak to a partner or solicitor immediately in the same way I did when calling up on the two occasions given above, or simply someone manning the stall and making appointments?

Of course only time will tell whether this is a shrewd move or one that backfires. It would be interesting to know how much business DHL pick up from teaming up with WHSmiths for parcel delivery services. I go into WHSmiths to buy Private Eye, browse books, go to Costa Coffee, look at the games or get a gift card - legal services? I'm not sure. Will the brand pick up passing trade and get business this way?

It reminds me of the RAC and the AA manning stalls outside service stations. How much business comes in from that particular activity? Does it add anything to the brand to be teaming up with the service stations to sell breakdown services to anyone passing or do they just tend to sell to someone desperate at that moment as they think their engine is about to blow and their subscription has expired?

I have not written this article to criticise Quality Solicitors and if anyone from the company or an individual law firm within the group would like to comment, please note that I will post this news item onto the website - all comments added (provided they are not from SEO companies trying to boost rankings!).

It is certainly the case that a lot of law firms need to up their game with marketing and advertising, and so many still live in the Stone Ages. A friend of mine was recently recounting calling round firms in a market town in North Wales for a quote for conveying a piece of land, getting very surly receptionists giving one size fits all prices, opening times that were inconvenient and being extremely depressed at the end of it....

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