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Four years ago, when to most people the name Clementi still meant the man from the Pru, Russell Jones & Walker (RJW) snapped up the brand name, call centre technology, website and telephone numbers of the claims manager then dubbed ‘Shames Direct’.
It’s a very different legal market now from the one in which RJW struck its deal for Claims Direct. With the the Legal Services Bill making its way through Parliament, there’s a growing understanding of the monumental changes around the corner. RJW’s bold statement of intent is the highest-profile example yet of a potentially transformative deal to hit the market.
The firm is to invest £5m in an advertising campaign designed to raise Claims Direct’s profile. The company’s collapse in 2002 did a pretty good job of that, but the ads will aim to show the business in a more positive light. According to RJW head of public affairs Louise Restell, Claims Direct is still the first name people think of in connection with personal injury.
Apparently it drops to third-most recognised when consumers are prompted with a list of options, but she claims: "We haven’t spent significant sums advertising it so it’s not surprising."
But it’s about to. And, as Restell says, the campaign is aimed at beefing up the brand so the firm can "take full advantage of the Legal Services Act".
RJW remains a conventional partnership offering services primarily for claimants. What it does do, pre the new laws, is to offer its services in innovative ways. That means using technology to improve services or offering complementary services, such as the podcasts it recently launched to offer clients additional information. You can’t knock the firm’s foresight to have bought the well-known Claims Direct brand, and four years ahead of its competitors. Now is the time to ramp it up.
RJW won’t be drawn on any opportunities to take advantage of the chance to change its business structure, attract outside investment or go into partnership with other professionals. As Restell puts it: "Nothing is on the table and nothing is off the table."
But RJW has big ambitions: don’t bet against it being radical.