High street firms face an uphill battle

A Law Society snapshot of the opportunities and problems facing high street practices paints a bleak picture of the future.

Compiled by its research and policy unit policy adviser John Jenkins, the chart on the right covers most areas of high street practice.

“My general conclusion from this exercise was that existing trends suggest that the number of high street solicitors is likely to grow faster than the demand for their services,” Jenkins told the Richmond conveyancing conference, Defending the residential conveyancing market, last month.

He added: “I believe that high street solicitors need to seek new opportunities.”

While one diversification option is selling property, Jenkins stressed that solicitors taking this route needed to demonstrate that they remained independent advisers and be aware that estate agents had a worse public image than did solicitors.

Jenkins added that firms were risking their reputation as well as their profit margins by negotiating low fees with clients who shopped around.

He said firms faced the danger of loyal clients discovering they were paying more than other clients for the same service. This would prompt them either to re-negotiate their own fees, or to go elsewhere.