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When Craig Holt started on his journey to become a barrister, he could not have envisaged the actual path his legal career would follow.
Holt is the lawyer behind QualitySolicitors, the franchise that is marketing itself as the saviour of the high street.
QualitySolicitors first launched back in 2008, when Holt got together with former Slaughter and May solicitor and one-time head of legal and commercial at P&O Group Michael Gradon to devise a plan to unite the high street in a way that could take advantage of the Legal Services Act (see story).
QualitySolicitors started life as an online legal alliance, but has now become synonymous with the future of consumer legal services. More than two years on and the firm has revealed that it is in talks with private equity partnership Palamon Capital Partners to take on investment to fund its massive expansion plans (see story).
“High street firms can’t compete from a marketing and brand development perspective with the bigger companies looking to enter the legal market, but by working together they can be a force to be reckoned with,” Gradon told The Lawyer in 2009, by which point 70 firms had signed up to use the brand.
Effectively, firms are paying a fee to use the QualitySolicitors brand, which is being advertised on television, online and radio, but also to have access to a referral network without competing with their local neighbours.
A deal to place legal outlets in WHSmith branches across the country was seen as revolutionary, moving the franchise to another level (see story).
The long-term aim, Holt said, was to have 500 WHSmith branches offering legal services through a QualitySolicitors affiliated firm. The rapid expansion will be funded using external capital, although the size of the investment from Palamon is unknown.
Pressure is building on firms with post-LSA ambitions to start establishing themselves on the high street before more-established brands move into the profession.
Earlier this year Irwin Mitchell appointed Espirito Santo Investment Bank to advise it on opportunities for outside investment. All options are up for consideration, it said, with the aim being to raise a war chest to fund future growth (see story).
Those plans have been delayed because the Government is yet to approve the SRA as a regulator for ABSs (see story).
It is expected that the act will come into force early next year, though, provoking a flurry of excitement for many consumer focused firms.
Prepare to see a revolution in the legal services market.