Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Solicitors’ Brands and Franchises - OTT?

It has become a recent trend in the legal profession for solicitors to start forming brand names and franchises. I think this can be traced back to a commentator who appears regularly in the Law Society Gazette called Neil Myerson who is a Professor at a university somewhere in the UK.

Professor Myerson has warned constantly about solicitors’ firms being eaten up by large multi-nationals coming into the market when the alternative business structures start to form in October 2011. Since then we have seen Quality Solicitors, the High Street Lawyer brand and now one called Face to Face. All of these appear to charge their members considerable amounts of money, promising advertising in return and forming large groups of firms able to compete in the national marketplace.

I voice a minority opinion I suspect, but I think that any firm signing up to these brands is probably flushing a rather large portion of cash straight down the toilet.

Franchising, which is what this model is, has been around for many years. You can purchase franchises in anything including Costa Coffee, McDonalds, Burger King, health and fitness clubs, estate agents, and many more. Most of the time these franchises are simply a way for large businesses to spread their operations and ensure other people take on the risks involved. I imagine that for the majority of time most companies are better off not being franchised and instead using the money they would have spent on the franchise to market their own business and brand name. Consider for example the Paul Rooney Partnership, based in Liverpool and advertising on Classic FM across the country for many years for Accident and Personal Injury matters.

Some of these brand names just sound as if a new business has opened up and do not really explain very much about what benefits you get as a consumer from using a firm working through a franchise than using a firm on the high street who have been there for many years.

I particularly admire the latest attempts to franchise with an upfront fee of £25,000 and 8% of profits shared with the umbrella company. What difference would it make if a consumer is looking for a solicitor in Stoke on Trent that one of the solicitors’ firms is called Quality Solicitors, the other is called Face to Face and the final one called High Street Solicitor? The consumer can to firms on the high street who have been there for many years and perhaps have an established brand known to a good proportion of the population.

Look at accountancy. Many years ago a new accountancy brand came onto the scene with the word "tax" in. There seemed to be quite a lot of firms who signed up for this brand, but if you phoned round for a quote these were actually more expensive than the smaller businesses and it was not clear what advantage one got from going through a company with the word Tax in the title as opposed to going through a company called Smith & Co Accountants. In fact in that case I have to confess to being put off the notion of an accountancy firm with the word Tax because at the time I was looking for an accountant, not someone who could offer me taxation advice. I appreciate this may be my own ignorance but this is an example of how franchises and brands can work against you.

The new Face to Face brand is an example of this perhaps. How many consumers want actual face to face advice from their solicitors and how many want 24 hour access via the internet? Does Face to Face really sum up what a consumer wants out of their lawyers or would Lawyer 24/7 perhaps have been the better brand name? Any firm which is thinking about signing up to one of these franchises may want to bear that in mind.

As ever I have not written this article to criticise the companies question, or to try and put down the businessmen setting up these business models. I will allow any comments from anyone linked to any of these businesses onto this site including a web link to your own site.

Afterall, we are legal recruiters and are supplying legal recruitment services to the legal profession and it hardly serves our own purpose to alienate our customers!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment, specialists for an integrated recruitment service for law firms offering a low cost system for just £60 per month per law firm. For further details please get in touch.

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