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    The UK is Changing the Legal Landscape
    Posted: 2011-07-14 04:54:02


    Flood in Leidig MeadowWhat is happening in the UK and why should you care?

    In August of this year, the UK legal market will open up to allow for private investment in law firms.

    This is an important change for the legal landscape. For the first time in the history of the legal profession, non-legal entities will be able to invest in a legal company and obtain ownership. It also means that non-legal companies can start to offer legal services as part of their service offerings.

    The countless opportunities this change creates are both exciting and a little unnerving. On the one hand, imagine how convenient it would be to find a real estate agent, mortgage broker, and real estate lawyer setting up shop together, providing high quality, consistent, and cost-effective service in office. On the other hand, however, there is something discomforting about getting your legal services at the grocery store; but this is exactly what some companies have proposed.

    The open-market legal system is just one of the tons of interesting developments in the UK, from law firm branding to share offerings on the stock exchange. Here is an example of how the legal system changes are offering opportunities for new ways of providing legal services.

    QualitySolicitors is a legal service that claims to care first and foremost about customer service. Launched just this spring, QualitySolicitors has allied itself with existing law firms and has rebranded them with common logos, advertising, and a consistent service model. The alliance purports to identify the “best” high street firm or firms in a given area (i.e. firms for clients from the general population).

    I’m just happy to finally see someone market legal services towards women.

    The approach that QualitySolicitors has taken is seen by some as a pre-emptive strike against the coming of alternative business structures, now dubbed “Tesco law”, when the new Legal Services Act is in full force a year from now, allowing non lawyers to invest in law firms and grocery chains (such as Tesco in the UK) offering their own legal services (David Billinsky has written recently on Slaw about the coming into effect of the Scottish Legal Services Act). The thought is that by the time Tesco et al. start selling legal services, QualitySolicitors, and other similar services such as HighStreetLawyer.com, will be a well-established national brand.

    I’m excited to see how the Legal Services Act is applied in the UK. I’m more excited to see how this will impact the North America market, and how North American lawmakers see these changes and whether they adopt a similar legislation in the coming years.

    Photo credit: Flickr - glennwilliamspdx (Glenn Scofield Williams)

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