Debt work on the cheap

Debt collection has become a money-spinner for law firms but many have seen it simply as a way to make a fast buck. One seasoned observer says: “A lot of firms with no experience have seen it as a way to get turnover up. A lot of small firms who did not know what they were doing entered the market.”

And with rumours of firms setting up sales teams to sell debt collection services to clients, many believe the pressure on price has become unsustainable. Hugh Robertson, of debt collection experts Braby & Waller, says: “There is a danger that some firms take a short-term view, seeking market share by 'low-balling' the market.

“It is extremely dangerous to let salesmen offer a sophisticated, skilled service at a cost which can only support an automated system staffed at a much lower level.

“It is not in the clients' interest and ultimately damages the whole profession.”

Others agree the 'pile it high, sell it cheap' trend means clients often get a low-grade service.

There is a temptation for firms to claim they can do all the work at low prices. But as one lawyer points out, this often “blows right up in their faces”. He comments that some firms “dash around offering very cheap services in bulk, often for scale fees only, just court fees.

“That's fine if clients want a no-frills service, but they have to be aware you get what you pay for.”

One lawyer praises Wallasty firm Thomas Higgins & Co for “honestly offering a cheap service”. “But such commendation cannot be given to other firms who sell a level of service significantly higher than they can afford to provide,” he adds.