Solicitors – Qualified for…

The Law21 blog entry on marketing has again inspired me to rant on the future of the legal profession.

‘Your solicitor, qualified to answer’ is a major national advertising and PR campaign to promote solicitors to the public.

Our aim is to encourage consumers to use solicitors by promoting their services and highlighting the unique selling points solicitors have to offer. Running from April to June, the campaign will focus on the reasons why solicitors are the only sensible choice for consumers. They are:

  • more expert and reliable than other providers of legal or quasi-legal services
  • properly regulated
  • excellent value for money 

 … or so say the Law Society in their recent marketing campaign to raise the ‘brand’ of solicitors. I’d edit the list as follows:

  • more expert and reliable than [many] other providers of legal or quasi-legal services [but are increasingly inferior to some]
  • properly regulated [and insured for when they fail to be more expert and reliable than the other side]
  • excellent value for money.

I don’t want to be confrontational; there are solicitors firms out there that do all the Law Society says, but they are the minority. Use a solicitor ten times over rather than some internet cowboys, but the badge of ‘solicitor’ itself is no guarantee of quality. Solicitors should be the cornerstone of reliability and expertise, but firms must make some real changes. Taking the Law Society’s list:

  • Expertise: I started off a solicitor in a high street firm which did a good amount of employment law for the firm’s size. I moved from there to a consultancy / insurance company you’ve never heard of, which in respect of its consultancy at least is completely unregulated. The quality at the latter was ten times better – the expertise and dedication to employment law was enormous. I’m not saying the law firm wasn’t competent – it was that and more – but it didn’t have the same excellence. I attribute the excellence at the consultancy to the commercial pressure of competition. If you’re Bloggs & Co Solicitors then you immediately have a badge stuck to your chest, and the public will reckon you the best man for the job because of it. If you’re Bloggs Limited and you want to succeed, you’d better make a name for yourself, get out there and network, and deliver on your commitments.
  • Regulation: Boy do you need that. I wouldn’t for a second disagree. When you provide legal services you play with people’s lives, and they need a fundamental reassurance that there is a legal framework for them to seek redress when you cock it up. What’s wrong with the system is the regulator itself – the SRA. Its huge, monolithic, inefficient, and worst of all its one-size-fits-all style of regulation prevents firms from competing effectively. You also need compulsory insurance for professional negligence, and most other professionals would do a double take at the premiums solicitors have to pay.
  • Excellent value for money: Where solicitors lack at the moment is in charging innovation, as the Law21 blog notes every couple of weeks or so, and as I’ve rambled about previously.

This is all terribly sad, as it commercialises the role of solicitor which in previous days wasn’t simply a job, but a vocation. But solicitors haven’t changed for the worst, they’ve simply been outpaced by modern society. They must adapt and they must survive. The Law Society campaign is completely backwards – it tries to educate people that solicitors are the answer to their problems when this message is becoming less and less true every day. Their time and resources would be much better spent in engaging with their own profession on how to rescue the brand of ‘solicitor’ and invest it with some meaning in the modern age.

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