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Mills & Reeve is to provide fixed-price family services as it prepares to compete with non-legal players entering the profession.
The firm said it would offer staged fees for divorce litigation that could be calculated up front to offer clients certainty over long-term costs.
“Time recording has done the profession irreparable damage,” Mills & Reeve partner Roger Bamber contended. “At a time when the legal services market will be liberalised, firms need to take steps to address that.”
He said competition was already “intensifying” in the family legal market, adding: “When the SRA is authorised to regulate ABSs [alternative business structures] it will being about a huge shift in the profession.”
Mills & Reeve, Bamber said, was looking to be innovative to keep attracting clients and this would mean taking on the financial risk of some appropriate family cases. The firm is developing strategies aimed at distinguishing it from high street competitors and transparency on costs is seen as key to that.
As well as fixed fees, the firm is piloting the use of a family psychiatrist for clients.
“We’re actually paying for the client to see a therapist so they can assess the best method of legal support, whether it’s mediation or litigation,” Bamber explained.
In addition the firm is introducing online instruction forms so clients will have access to their files wherever they are.
According to the Legal Ombudsman’s Office, one in every five complaints it received in the past year related to costs.