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Former Clyde & Co chief operating officer David Jabbari has joined national firm Pannone as a partner with specific responsibility for building the firm’s UK-wide referral network Connect2Law.
Jabbari, who was formerly chief executive of Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, where he was instrumental in driving through the firm’s November 2011 merger with Clydes (29 July 2011), left the enlarged firm a month ago (5 November 2012).
While Jabbari is to join Pannone’s executive board, he will also hold the role of chief executive of Connect2Law, a referral network of independent firms set up by Pannone a decade ago. His main focus will be driving the growth of that brand.
Jabbari said: “Our research shows that the power of a local law firm’s reputation and brand is what’s important to consumers when they buy legal services. They value independent high street solicitors and face-to-face contact with people they trust.
“Connect2Law’s member firms have an excellent reputation in their local areas. They’re committed and expert professionals who know the law inside out. This is why I believe Connect2Law has the potential to become the UK’s leading legal brand.
“As part of Connect2Law firms will gain both a supportive brand identity and greater efficiency in their internal processes.”
Currently the Connect2Law network is made up of 2,600 member firms across the UK. According to Jabbari the combined turnover of these firms is in the region of £1bn.
Jabbari said that Connect2Law, whose running costs are met by Pannone, off-sets some of its costs through pooled buying services that are offered to its members.
“It’s our aim to extend the value of Connect2Law to our members and that will of course have financial implications [for Pannone],” he said. “There are many ways in which we may seek to finance this and we will be presenting options to the members over the next few months.”
At the moment there are no plans for Connect2Law to seek conversion to an ABS, though Jabbari said it would be considered if mmber firms wanted to go down that route.
“No external investment is currently planned in Connect2Law,” said Jabbari. “Connect2Law is a network owned and managed by lawyers. While we will of course consider whether external funding is the best route to advance our member firms’ interests, we’ll not pursue a course that commits us to short term and cosmetic returns to private equity.”
With a number of new entrants, such as Local Law (21 November 2012) and QualitySolicitors (20 October 2011), taking advantage of the post-Legal Services Act environment to roll out their offerings in the consumer market, Jabbari has been tasked with increasing Connect2Law’s visibility as a consumer-facing brand.
As is the case with QualitySolicitors, whose member firms all use the network’s branding alongside their own, Connect2Law member firms will be encouraged to use dual branding. That said, Jabbari said that “branding on its own is not enough”.
“We aim to drive business into the network and provide our members with the latest practice management technology to process it,” he added.
According to Pannone managing partner Emma Holt Connect2Law “is one of a number of strategic initiatives in the pipeline as Pannone capitalises on the opportunities presented in the changing legal landscape”.
Connect2Law currently has 17 members of staff, the bulk of whom are based in Manchester with the remainder in London. The network’s 20 largest member firms, which are known as ‘hub’ firms, also have dedicated Connect2Law business development managers in their offices.