General legal information - How ‘Tesco Law’ will affect you

 

By Rosie Given

January 2012 saw the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority being made the licensing regulator for Alternative Business Structures (ABS’) – or ‘Tesco Law’ as it has been more commonly branded. This overhaul to the foundations of the legal world will allow non-lawyers the ability to invest and own their own law firms meaning that, in theory, Tesco or any other high street retailer will be allowed to offer legal services alongside their usual provisions. The first ABS to receive their license just last month after a long wait was the Cooperative Legal Services.

The concern for law firms is that this will further increase competition for legal services at a time when fees are a deciding factor for the average consumer. The Cooperative is currently amidst a bidding war to takeover hundreds of Lloyds’ branches, meaning we could find a Cooperative Legal on every high street corner, and in direct competition with the long established high street law firms. This is best illustrated through the rise of internet ‘DIY’ conveyancing packages, where face-to-face client service has been challenged by whoever can offer the cheapest quote. There are worries that ABS’ will reduce the quality of legal services offered, although the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has promised to be strict in the granting of its licenses.

At the same time, the freedom to appoint management who are from a non-law background means that law firms can be more commercially focused, allowing organisation to be determined by individual’s strengths; those who are more qualified to deal with the finances can take charge of the budgeting and accounting without the prerequisite of also being a solicitor. This then leaves the solicitors to do what they do best and what they are trained to do. ABS’ will also address the new legal aid reform cuts, where some plan to offer fixed fee divorce packages and other more affordable options for those who would have previously been entitled to legal aid.

The legal world is changing and we, as consumers, have to move with it. The introduction of ABS’ should allow better access to legal services for you, with a wider range of budgets and services available, and greater competition means a greater emphasis on what each law firm will offer us individually which is unique.

Rosie Given is one of Caven’s most knowledgeable case handlers with extensive experience in this matter from dealing with clients on a day-to-day basis.

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