From Tesco Estate Agency To Tesco Law

Thanks to @paulhajek for flagging up this article;

“NEWS FLASH: Tesco bounces back into property market

Thursday 4th March 2010

Tesco is back in the estate agency market with the launch of Spicerhaart’s brand new offering, called iSold.

The new brand, whose slogan is ‘We simply sell homes’, has chosen Bristol for its national launch. Actual launch day has not been announced but is expected this weekend with local newspaper advertising apparently booked.”

Only recently I was being reassured by someone that Tesco had failed in Estate Agency and their forays into law would be similarly doomed.  I thought that was complacent at the time.  This form of complacency is ofen repeated and I have blogged on it once or twice already.

The Complacency Of Failure

There is a phenomenom that runs like this this.

A new initiative in providing professional services fails.  The failure of that particular initiative is then seized upon as demonstration that intiative as a whole is not required, will never succeed and that “The way we have always done it” will be the way we always will.

That, dear readers, may enbale the conservative (small c) wings of our professions to sleep at night, in complete denial of massive impending change, but it does not hold water.

Tescos have had previous forays into estate agency.  They failed. So what.  Fail quickly and move on.

I still think the brand name iSold is awful.  The bandwagon jumping lower case I prefixing an adjective or verb is so hackneyed already.

And that logo “We simply sell homes” is like something out of branding kindergarten.

Reader’s Comments

The comments on the post are interesting also.

Try this from Harry Shitemove, probably not his real name.

“you get what you pay for when it comes to personal service”

or this

“This is like the dotcom bubble all over again. I give them 18 months max. The only time you should be worried about a competitor is when they charge more than you. Tesco’s management are well respected, but this is a massive error on their part. They should stick to what they know, flogging me donuts and tasty sandwiches”

but perhaps, most odiously, as in a really rancid stench, is this very proud and handsomely paid estate agent who loudly proclaims;

“Ha Ha Ha Every Little Helps… If I got a 1k fee for selling a house then i wouldn’t get out of bed. VERY TRUE. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR ! ! !”

What do I pay an estate agent for? To sell my house, not for a relationship.

Now, if the model gives me full online access to records of all enquiries, written comments on viewings, records on all follow-up calls and feedback from viewers, then I do not need to be kept holding on an estate agent’s phone line or waiting for calls to be returned.

The future is coming.  Please try to stay awake while it happens.

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46 Comments

Filed under General Technology, Law, Lawyers and Social Media

46 responses to “From Tesco Estate Agency To Tesco Law

  1. The temptation to wax metaphors is too great to resist.

    This may be the delayed tsumami which will hit estate agency unawares after the earlier earth tremours of the “failed” Tesco attempt.

    It reminds me a bit of Winston Churchill’s aphorism “courage is going from failure to failure without losing”.

    Tesco’s success, however, is by no means assured.

    Estate Agency is essentially a cottage industry (my law firm were one of the very few who ventured into Estate Agency so I have a fair degree of insider knowledge). There are with high fixed overheads, you are not guaranteed to get paid and there have already been high profile corporate disasters (remember Prudential and Bristol & West in the late eighties).

    Speaking with the owner of one of Bristol’s largest estate agency chains yesterday, he told me that despite the techological the most potent weapon for the Agent is their desktop “hot box” of known applicants looking for specific properties which they may soon have on their books.

    That said fees charged by Estate Agents are contentious. If public perception that fixed fees are the norm, rather than a percentage, takes hold, then that would definitely spell the end for many an agent who cannot ensure a certain volume of transaction.

    The personal brand of an Agent (perhaps rather than their corporate brand) might well be the antidote to Tesco, which is prevalent in the USA

    Social Media will be perfect tools for estate agents to begin their innvoative fight back.

    And yes, we lawyers have been warned.

    But, at least some of us have been planning for the inevitable onslaught for a little while

  2. Interesting post Neil. Good style btw.

    My worry though is that the usual suspects will add two and two, (or even 1.9) and make the leap from estate agency to legal services.

    Obvious…innit?!

    I see no immediate connect but people will no doubt use this move for more scare mongering.Not naming names but I can think of at least two organisations that will be drafting their comms as I type…”death on the high street” stuff.

    I would be happy with them selling my home for me…could give that market a real shake up..hoo-bleedin’-rah in my book.

    As to the law stuff…well we have all blogged about Tesco Law at some stage. My take is,

    1. Tesco Law (assuming it happens) will be in a different market to law firms…happy to share a slide with anyone remotely interested to prove that

    2. Tesco Law will feed work to law firms cos…hello…law is complex and while it can start online in a call centre for some that is not holistic for all

    3. Tesco will not buy law firms…what is the incentive for them doing that? It’s a number (clue)…less than one

  3. BTW as to online tools…the Rightmove app on the iPhone is COOL! I don’t have to go into their offices..I can do tons of research and prep work, (I am currently planning a big move).

    I bet that app is keeping the pencils well and truly sharpened in the estate agents offices these days.

    Facebook usage in estate agent offices…bet that has climbed over the last few years.

  4. Thanks Paul for sharing your insights – fascinating stuff and a great example of colliding differing professions and perspectives. We can all learn so much – I like the hotbox idea for example.

    Public perception of costs is crucial. Within that is the twin challenge on the part of professionals in understanding where we deliver value and then in demonstrating that value.

    And I am with you entirely on personal branding, something that those estate agent’s comments did not seem to show too much awareness of with their complacency and contempt.

    Blogging, a well established Twitter account, demonstrating real interest and initiative can achieve a great deal even in the face of a changing market as I suspect you and I are discovering Paul.

    Thanks for posting.

  5. Hello Jon and thanks for posting.

    Yesterday I was discussing an upcoming presentation where my co-presenter wanted to lean into the “It’s going to get worse, much worse” routine. I pointed out that we don’t need to scare monger, we just need to have that awareness that changes are coming.

    It need not be worse, but it will certainly be different. The scare-mongering I think shuts down the curiousity and discussion.

    The similarities that I can see are within the existing professionals reactions – conservative, dismissive, short-sighted.

    Let’s not dismiss these moves. Instead, pay attention.

    What can we learn from the large scale innovators?

    What are their services telling us about where the market perceives value?

    Thanks for posting and the encouraging words.

  6. Thanks for the response Neil…

    Is “dismissive, conservative & short sighted” like our take that as a profession (some) law firms suffer from “fear, ignorance and arrogance” and that is the great eliminator…not brands?

    I am not saying it is going to be easy, big decisions have to be made but solicitors are very bright in my experience…the future is exciting…if you prepare for it and understand it.

    It upsets me a bit that I have a helicopter view, can see the cliff…but you know what…my focus is one the ones who want to survive because they are the ones that will carry this profession forward.

  7. Interesting post Neil – and I agree with what you say about the “head in the sand” approach being taken by many solicitors.

    However, if you look at the iSold site (also agree with your comments on the branding etc. – urgh) it is very clear that this is set up as a joint venture between Spicerhaart and Tesco. Effectively it is still an estate agency, employing estate agents and operating from a nice new “Estate Agency” in Bristol.

    What they are getting from Tesco is (I presume) the promotional support and benefit of the brand, but it isn’t a case of Tesco renting offices with a view to filling them with Tesco employed estate agents in blue uniforms.

    If Tesco Law does come into existence then I would expect it to follow this kind of model.

    As I have commented on other blogs – many of the big brands offer insurance services, but they don’t employ underwriters or get involved in the international sub-underwriting and re-insurance market. They basically partner with existing insurers (or even brokers) to offer them the benefit of their brand and promotional services.

    The same for estate agents and (I would suggest) the same for lawyers.

    Is this going to increase competition in the estate agency market (at least in the Bristol area) and drive down fees? Possibly it will provided that they are able to offer a comparable level of service to the agents who are already out there (I know estate agents get a slating, but actually the good ones can make a big difference to getting a sale through).

    Is it some kind of quantum shift or “tsunami” in the estate agency market? Not in my opinion – it is a clever piece of joint venture marketing backed up by adoption of the latest technology to cut down overheads and reduce fees.

    Tesco law (or XYZ brand law) will probably have a similar affect in the legal market… but to a large extent this is happening anyway. Firms are realising that there is new technology available which allows them to reduce their overheads and they are going to take advantage of it.

    Whilst it would be nice to keep the same fee structure and just ramp up margins, this isn’t going to be realistic as firms will pass on the cost savings in order to get the work in.

    This “Tesco Estate Agency” story is one piece of a much larger shake-up of the market… and I think it is a mistake to see it as some kind of tipping point or cataclysm.

    The same applies to the legal market. It doesn’t make sense to put your head in the sand, but equally focussing on Tesco or “brands” generally as the only drivers in the ongoing change in the legal market risks missing the bigger picture.

    Change is coming… and even if the brands were somehow “banned” from the process then the more forward-thinking law firms would drive it.

  8. I suspect that what you refer to as “fear, ignorance and arrogance” is what drives some to adopt stances which are “dismissive, conservative & short sighted”

    I believe that the latter are modes of self-deception. If we can convince ourselves that these new-fangled disruptive technologies won’t affect us then we can dope ourselves and numb the fear.

    It is an exciting time indeed for the professions. There will be, I believe, I shaking down of the hierarchies and those that want to take the lead now can take the lead.

    Bring it on!

  9. Hi Beej, thanks for contributing.

    It makes perfect sense for Tescos to piggy back, or partner, an existing practitioner. Slashes the set-up costs and gives an opportunity to understand the market.

    Just as they do not produce their own milk, nor will they produce their own legal services entity. instead, they provide a conduit or access point from which those sevices can be purchased.

    I cannot see any reason why Tesco would not look to piggy back several mid-sized firms or niche practices. Divorce-online, for example, will be at the very top of their shopping list and I am sure that they are in a very strong position indeed if the were minded to explore partnership.

    I suspect this might not be the tsunami or quantum shift. It cannot be ignored or belittled all the same.

    As for your comment that “The more forward thinking law firms will drive ” change, let us not lose sight of that Susskind quote that “Google was not invented by librarians.”

    There might yet be a left field idea that comes from out of nowhere and revolutionises legal service provision. Personally I don’t have anything like enough regard for the Tesco brand to believe that they are the ones.

  10. Hmmm interesting. Can’t see a brand having agreements with seperate law firms…nightmare to manage. How does the workflow get controlled and managed?

    They will go to a supplier who has the panel, some out there already of course…but are they fit for purpose…by that I mean not in terms of their ability but are they all connected up…I would say not.

    Okay I am being bashful…needs to be a technological connection. Brand goes to that panel provider says I want this and this, by this time…deal done.
    So the model to watch may not be Tesco Law…try Halifax Legal Express from online to face to face, charged accordingly, with a fim in most towns and cities all (customer, brand, law firm) singing from (and dancing to) the same hymn sheet.

    Can you dance to a hymn?

    You cannot operate efficiently with a 20th century business model in a 21st century consumer driven market…and it is the latter that drives all this.

  11. This is in effect a new brand “iSold” not Tesco Estate Agents. It has an association with Tesco which will no doubt help kick start it and promote it in ways that other new start estate agents could only dream of. However, it is still a new brand that will require to be built up to compete with established brands.

    What does it offer that the established brands do not? Other than a fixed fee that is not clear at the moment. Will they use social media to sell your home? No http://twitter.com/isold as yet (and I have decided not to squat on the name!).

    In Glasgow there are even cheaper fixed fee offerings like http://www.patchproperty.co.uk/ They are not putting other estate agents out of business. Not everyone shops at Tesco. Although, I appreciate that many corner shops no longer exist as a result of Tesco. Likewise I hear that Waitrose is threatening the existence of established delicatessens since they opened up in Glasgow’s West End.

    Tesco Law is coming. We may well see iLaw (that firm does exist – http://www.ilaw.co.uk/) or the like “in association with Tesco”. Although, I understand we are more likely to see Co-op Law or Halifax Law or Virgin Law before we see Tesco Law.

    A threat but also an opportunity. As Paul says some of have been planning for a little while. Likewise Jon Bloor is correct that the more forward thinking law firms can and will drive change. Better to be in the driving seat in the car out front than following in the bus behind.

  12. I can’t provide any details without betraying certain confidences but I can state categorically that Tesco do intend to provide legal services following the green light for ABSs from 6.10.11. I totally disagree with Jon Bloor’s comments above; namely:

    1. Tesco Law (assuming it happens) will be in a different market to law firms…happy to share a slide with anyone remotely interested to prove that

    2. Tesco Law will feed work to law firms cos…hello…law is complex and while it can start online in a call centre for some that is not holistic for all

    3. Tesco will not buy law firms…what is the incentive for them doing that? It’s a number (clue)…less than one

    Ok. I actually disagree with just two of them, I agree with the third comment – i.e. that Tesco will not buy law firms.

    In respect of (1) I agree that Tesco law might be in a different market to many (not all) law firms but Tesco law is one of thousands of different possible new entrants to the market as a result of the Legal Services Act; each catering for a different market. Jon falls into a trap many lawyers do which is along the lines of “I’m not worried about Tesco law as my clients are not the type of client to go to Tesco”. The LSA is not just about Tesco law. What about Co-operative legal services? Or a future hypothetical “Halifax solicitors”? The former is likely to have branches across the country just as they currently do for their funeral services and banks. They will be conveniently located, easy, employing good solicitors and branded with a familiar and trusted name. I would use them without hesitation – am I not the target market for law firms?

    Point (2) is related. The LSA is not about law firms vs call centres. The LSA does not require new entrants to be purely call centre and internet based. Whilst some might offer “white labelled” services through panels (although not if referral fees are banned) many won’t. The Co-op have made this clear; with MD Eddie Ryan recently stating that they would only use law firm panels to the extent they had so much work they needed a “release valve”.

    Just like Specsavers dominate the (formerly fragmented) legal market, so even just one well-run, branded, nationwide branch operated legal services operation could easily do the same in the legal market. To view the new brand entrants as posing a small challenge only through purely white labelled grossly understates the changes ahead.

    This doesn’t even begin to consider the wider picture with CMCs providing legal services, big organisations such as Aviva and Capita (both of whom have expressed a desire to take advantage of the LSA) and “national law firms” such as Irwin Mitchell being able to take on external investment to grow their market share such as has happened with Slater & Gordon in Australia.

    The 6th October 2011 will be a date that brings fundamental change to the legal market. That is not scare mongering; it is simply a reflection of the commercial realities. A glance at almost any other market shows this.

  13. Craig – you might well disagree with those comments… but they aren’t mine! You mean Jon Busby.

    Neil – you seem to have started a good debate here. Interesting point in your response to my earlier comment…. maybe something will come out of left field which will take the brands and the law firms by surprise?

  14. Brands coming in yes altho some. way off, we are doing it now for More Than, Halifax,RBS Natwest, DAS UNUM could go on if you want, talking to most of the rest. I can only comment on my experience but Craig seems to be saying that Tesco Law is go, is that so Craig or did i misread. You say “categorically”

    My take is brands will outsource not have any in house, certainly initially, til there is proven return and technology will be critical.

  15. Sorry – too many Jons! I apologise Jon Bloor!

    I find the following quote interesting:

    From Simon Slater, an experienced law firm consultant:

    “I have news for anyone who holds this view [that retail brands couldn’t run a law firm]. Speaking as someone who has experience of working in the retail sector and has also spent over a decade in legal practice management, I am unshakeable in my belief that, by comparison, law firms are very simple businesses indeed.

    The skills required to run a successful supermarket business are many and varied. One only has to consider the words and phrases never uttered in the corridors of a law firm to understand the relative complexity involved: demographics, demand forecasting, customer trends, footfall, supply chain, logistics, procurement, category management, merchandising, and market share. I could go on, but you get the picture.”

    The Co-op are already doing it. Others will follow suit.

  16. Fascinating stuff guys, and Craig, good to hear from you too.

    Jon Busby’s commented that we should not presume that the Tesco Estate Agency means Tesco Law is imminent, or similar.

    Craig, your comments are intriguing. You tease, you!

    What is also fascinating is that we have an array of responses to a changing market here.

    There is the individual brand, as recommended by Paul Hajek and others. Get blogging, get you Twitter account established. Get found on google. Become an expert.

    Then there is Jon’s model, looking at solicitors aligning themselves with large National Brand panel – akind of spreading the load if I understand correctly.

    And then we have Craig’s fascinating insights regarding Co-op, Tesco and others’ plans. Craig, you say that they are going to be perfectly comfortable doing it themselves.

    Perhaps the positions are not exclusive of one another. It is perhaps inevitable that there will be a whole range of new models.

    But tell me this, how long do you think the naysayers have until they will have to sit up and notice?

    Thanks again everyone for the discussion, thanks also to Brian Inkster and everyone who has been spinning this top over on Twitter.

  17. My feeling is that most of the face to face requirement, perhaps due to complexity, can easily be outsourced to savvy local law firms, esp if they are on the same technology platform as the brand and customer.

    In fact it is not about brands or law firms it is about the smart and not so smart.

    Viva la/le law firm I say!!

  18. Neil comments are coming in faster than I can type on my Touch…ooooh Lordy!

  19. I agree with Neil’s suggestion that there will be an incredible plurality of models post-LSA. I don’t predict the total annihilation of law firms but the market share held by totally independent law firms is going to reduce from 100% to a figure much, much lower as other organisations eat significantly into the available market. As for a national brand “panel” as suggested by Jon; of course, I don’t disagree with this – it is similar to the QualitySolicitors concept which is to promote a national brand which our member solicitors increasingly share and display alongside their own. What I will say is that any solicitors inolved in blogs like this will be (or should be) ahead of the game and best placed to meet the threats that will be posed. Most of the legal profession (and I include my own barrister side of the profession in that too) remains totally ignorant of the changes that are coming and, frankly, that is probably good news to the few that aren’t…

  20. The ‘panel’ is only one aspect though. The quality, no pun intended, is critical cos brands are ferociously protective of, you guessed it, their brand. But there is one other piece in this jigsaw, the infrastructure it all sits on. Tech delivers common denominator where size goes out the window. Without a common technology platform to take the strain, on and off, of volume cycles, service standards, crm, secure comms, payment processes, compliance,drafting….I could go on but it is late..then the panel is weaker. ALL industry examples, insurance, music etc have changed radically because of technology.

  21. One final comment, Craig you say “threats that will be posed” I and a lot of the firms I talk to would say “oportunities that will be presented.”

    Semantics maybe, subtle indeed but important.

  22. I largely disagree. The threat/opportunity dichotomy is overstated and it is more than just semantics. Yes – as a matter of semantics – you can state that for every threat an opportunity is presented but, crucially, the opportunity is not usuall available to the person facing the threat but to the one posing it. For example, if I am face to face with a Lion, I am under threat. He has an opportunity (for some food!), there is no “opportunity” for me just a significant threat that I will either survive or not. I think the same applies to law firms facing new entrants to the market as a result of the LSA. This is not a glass half full/half empty situation where you are the optimist and I am the pessimist. Law firms are going to find their share of the market reduce – if the opticians market provides any help for example from 100% to, for arguments sake, 20%. That is an unqualified threat. There is, in my mind, no part of the LSA that is “good news” for law firms. Yes, of course there will be opportunities for particularly innovative ones to survivie and even flourish but that will be in spite of, not because of, the LSA. And, to be blunt, simply offering online document service through a technology provider such as your own Epoq system (whilst an undoubtedly impressive platform) does not constitute sufficient innovation on the law firms part. So yes, for a select and limited few, there will be opportunities, but on the whole, I think the “for every threat there is an opportunity” approach is lazy thinking by people who, as Neil points out above, are wilfully blind to the severity and immediacy of the impact of the LSA. It goes deeper than that even, in that most of the poeple who rely on the mantraaren’t actually doing anything to find this fabled “opportunity”, save for maybe a bit of “twitter-ing” or revamping their webpage. That kind of lip service response to the LSA is like trying to fight an inferno with a water pistol. I firmly believe that there will be two or three nationally branded “legal services providers” branches in most major towns and cities across the UK, employing their own solicitors, who will have, as a result of people’s natural affinity to brands, the majority of the retail legal work.

  23. Great debate gents.

    There is a point I hope one of you can clarify for me.

    Although we are all privy to “Tesco Law” and the effect on high street work – but isn’t there a bigger concern regarding the larger banking and financial institutions offering commercial and corporate tie- ins with loans, mergers, insurance etc?

    We all know the size of these behemoths and I understand that in a number of matters there will always be the possibility of a conflict. But that said surely this will have an equal if not more of an effect?

    Any one’s thoughts on this apparent overlooked aspect?

  24. Should of course mean affect, unless you see a window of opportunity. I guess I must be naturally optimistic!

  25. I’ll put some coffee on and catch up with the debate!

    There are some very provocative thoughts from Craig.

    I don’t agree with the premise that only the party presenting the threat has the opportunity. We all have an opportunity in the face of the LSA threat to stir ourselves out of our stupor and get ready.

    I still don’t see too much of that going on within the profession generally, partly as a result of the downturn and a reluctance to invest.

    For all of that I do recognise that new providers should be looking at our market and rubbing their hands in glee. It is a conservative market, I suspect it will remain slow to react if it realises the threat at all.

    To go back to Craig’s lion metaphor, it could be like coming across a herd of deaf and lame antelopes with no sense of smell.

    I also find myself helpfully challenged by Craig’s comment that many who see the threat are doing little more than twittering and revamping websites.

    Point taken.

    Employed solicitors with no partnership structure/hierarchy is definetely likely. Quite how that will impact upon practitioners career progression is unclear. It seems that there may be a new, far lower ceiling on solicitors potential earnings.

  26. Good morning Oliver and thanks for contributing.

    I think we touched upon the banks stepping in earlier on. We are using tesco law as shorthand in many ways for the new entrants that we will see in the marketplace.

    I think it is inevitable that there will banks of solicitors, or perhaps more likely, non-solicitor but legally qualified professionals, working for banks and other national companies to service their existing clients’ legal needs. I cannot see why there wouldn’t be.

  27. The Gaggia has gurgled and the milk is now frothed…eyes down and stand by your beds lol.

    Craig I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. I am not saying you are wrong…the truth is noone actually knows what is going to happen.

    You seem a tad dismissive of our platform…the same platform that institutions such as Halifax are already utilising at

    http://www.halifaxlegalexpress.co.uk/halifax/

    The same platform that seamlessly migrates complex work from the brand over to the law firm where they can charge their normal rates. (Hell we even give the law firm the option of accepting the work and rejecting electronically if necessary as well as managing the payment process Rule 8 or is it 9…sorry caffeine denial)

    So I would say stop talking about ‘Tesco Law’ and consider ‘Halifax Law’ it is a working model, allbeit in its infancy.

    I just don’t get why a brand would bother to reinvent a wheel. Building a platform like hours would take something like 2-3 years and a significant 7 figure sum, that’s before you get an ROI and then once built you have to maintain it…not just the tech but the legal content to. 2-3 years down the line the market could be carved up.

    That same platform connects the customer, the brand and the law firm so work can commence online and if required continue in office.

    It’s always about options and choices…and affordable deliverables.

    On your lion scenario…I agree lions are scary…but its a big jungle…my advice don’t go where the lions are. I did a slide about the landscape which you can see here

    http://slidesha.re/cfmAoc

    Yes there will be overlap but that jungle is big enough for all, or at least the fittest (read smartest)

    One other query I have though. You say that brands will come in and put a solicitor on every high street retail outlet…isn’t that a threat to the very firms you represent at Quality Solicitors?

    Anyhow must go and do some proper work (LOL), my final take (yeah right!)…I have written a lot here about this whole scenario,

    http://tinyurl.com/yzw3gz5

    Though you need to be on Linkedin

  28. I did want to change direction slightly and ‘big up’ Paul Hajek’s take…seems to me that there is a guy who is taking control of his destiny and utilising tools. Some will work, some may not but I salute anyone who tries and learns from them.

  29. And finally Oliver’s point which I think was around big banks and insurers etc.

    I may have got what you are saying as wrong Oliver, so apologies for that, but I think it can be summed up by the fact that Tesco (them again) are not an insurer but are perceived as one. They outsource all of that (considerable) risk to RBS & Fortis…effectively an agent. Insurer gives them a net rate they charge a gross rate and take the differential.

    Plus if they don’t like the insurer or fall out with them, or a better deal comes along they can shift underwriter. Harder to do that if you have your underwriting in house.

    That is the one expression brands like…non-risk income.

  30. Thanks Mr Busby.

    Although I think I have not explained myself as well as I ought to have done (nothing unusual there).

    What I meant was; as Tesco’s legal offerings will predominantly be focused upon private client, i.e. wills, personal injury and the such – doesn’t the LSA07 provide for RBS etc to offer commercial work. I.e. instead of nipping down to your local solicitors to have a contract drawn up – RBS would offer that service?

    If so – surely that is equally as worrying?

    Thanks,

    Oliver

  31. I’ve been following this and Tesco/Spicer Haart may have a problem. After all, “i-SOLD” on boards outside properties which have not sold may confuse the consumer. This may then cause problems with misleading advertising. By the way, if anyone wants i-sold.net pointed to an Estate agent site, let me know.

  32. Hi Oliver

    No need to call me Mr.

    I am not expert on whether commercial is included in the LSA but imagine it does.

    I think the key point is that a ‘service’ could be distributed via a brand…down to them how they package that up.

    Jon

  33. Jon – I am not at all “a tad dismissive” of your platform. I have no doubt it is one of the better online document systems around. My point was simply that just as doing a bit of twittering or having a revamped website is not answer to the threat of the LSA; neither is signing up to providing online documents. That doesn’t mean those aren’t all very good things to do – it is just my view that the scale of change in the market will be so vast that it will require much, much more fundamental action. You are quite right that the brands having branches in every high street retail outlet is a risk to my QualitySolicitors membership – a huge one. That is why we are shortly to implement a strategy that we hope will combat this threat. Watch this space but the legal market might be about to change sooner than people expect…

    Oh, and Oliver, you are quite right about RBS. It’s more than that – imagine your business account with Barclays. Thrown in with that is free “legal advice”. They capture the client and can deal with that with their own in-branch solicitor with a nice little office upstairs next to the mortgage section… And these companies don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” and spend two years developing the Epoq system. They have all the technology platform they need to deal with customers perfectly adequately and online document systems – if required – are not that difficult to buy/create. Again – that is not a criticism of your model; from what I have seen you have an impressive example of this kind of thing but to suggest no brand could provide legal services in house without spending 2/3 years trying to copy your service is very unrealistic. If there was no attraction in competing with, rather than partnering with, law firms then what are the co-op playing at?

  34. Hi Craig

    Thanks for the praise of our platform, always appreciated.

    Shall await eagerly to see what QS is delivering strategically…Neil is right…you are a tease lol

    Have a good weekend!

  35. Likewise. Good debating with you!

    Just one thought for the weekend. If the Jackson recommendation for the banning of referral fees, widely defined, is accepted and expanded to cover all legal matters the “big-brand with a panel of law firms” model simply won’t get off the ground as the brand will be prohibited from receiving any payment of any kind for introducing clients to those law firms. To that extent any solicitor advocating the abolishment of referral fees is very much shooting themselves in the foot as this will do nothing over than hasten/increase the need for ‘the brands’ to provide the services themselves in order to profit from them.

  36. Craig has just made an exceptional point about referral fees.

    There are many solicitors are wanting to get rid. I just hope those who aren’t cajoled into claiming will be able to distinguish one firm from another and moreover, actually choose them!

  37. That is, Craig, I believe, an excellent example of the law of unintended consequences!

    I like Boyd Butler’s points above as well.

    i-Sold is a rubbish name. I’m not so much worried about the trade descriptions, but rather the message that a board with “…Sold” written upon it delivers.

    If I see a board with Sold on it, I am going to think,

    “Tsk, that one’s gone.” if I register it at all.

    If I see a board with “For Sale” on it, then I am interested.

    Will i-Sold boards state;

    “i-Sold For Sale” which would just be utterly non-sensical.

    It also seems rather half-baked that the.net domain and the Twitter account were still available…

  38. Just to throw something from the US into the debate:-

    Interesting comparision video from practiceblawg.com comparing purchasing an online will from LegalZoom against the “equivalent” experience of having it drafted by an attorney.

    Would be interesting to see a similar comparison in the UK market.

    http://practiceblawg.com/2010/03/purchasing-a-69dollar-will/

  39. Interesting debate here. Had a glance over it, and wanted to point out my own take on this which is partly encapsulated in this PRWeb release I sent out on Friday: Legal Big Bang and Dawn of a New Era in Law http://bit.ly/aKGDsC As you will see if you read it, my own view is that the future will see many law firms developing products, some of which will enable consumers to do their own law, but better than the current offerings of legal templates. What costs money is service, especially from a legally trained highly qualified solicitor. So the alternative is going to have to be to a one to many delivery model instead of the current one to one.

  40. Pingback: Podcast-ic! | Legal 2.0

  41. Thanks for the videos above – I love it when a blog goes multi-media.

    And thanks also to Shireen for pitching in. Good to see you on here having seen you over on Twitter.

    What your post demonstrates, and what we haven’t really touched on above, is the need to fill in the blanks between two rather polarized positions, ie full representation vs remote document completion.

    Susskind of course had a whole spectrum of commoditisation with, from memory, 5 stages within it.

    The debate within the legal profession far too often deals with just two!

    The range of emergent services will look at the gulf between those two extremes.

  42. 42 comments and climbing Mr D! Are we going for the 50 this week?

    My personal view is that the successful 21st century law firm will be one that offers multi-engagement models. And by that they offer a choice of engagement.

    There seems to be a misconception that going online means that law firms only offer online, that the client is disconnected. The client may see it differently, as convenient. The law firm may see it as driving efficiency in to their firm.

    I don’t think the big change coming is just LSA, I think it is also economics, offering more and driving down the cost to serve so you can charge accordingly for whatever service model you offer.

    Online is only one distribution option, along with over the phone, in office, on site. All have their place and relevance because no two clients are the same. Firms just offering online would arguably be delivering as weak a solution as those not offering online.

    Online offers the potential of enhancing fixed fee offerings by moving the initial draft to the client, (discounted from the in office price) as well as the choice of charging by the hour.

    Online enables the client to choose how they want to engage at a price that they choose and migrate back to ‘in office’ if required due to complexity or because the client simply wants to. It also offers the option of offering no price so the law firm can negotiate with the submitted data.

    I appreciate this discussion is now a long way from estate agency…but it is a great debate!

  43. Today iSold.com, in association with Tesco, said that it expects to become ‘a major force in the distribution of conveyancing and associated legal services’ and would ‘certainly consider’ applying for a formal licence to offer legal services in 2011: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/call-conveyancers-diversify-pressure-grows-fees – Hat Tip to Paul Hajek for tweeting this out and see Paul’s blog post: : “Conveyancing Solicitors, Wake Up and Smell the Tesco Coffee”: http://www.cluttoncox.co.uk/site/library/blog/blogpost/solicitors_wake_up_and_smell_the_tesco_coffee.html

    As Jon Busby says our discussion is now a long way from estate agency. Neil, you would really need several separate threads on the go to cover the various angles that have appeared! I would like to bring us back to the question of branding which I think is an important issue when considering Tesco Law.

    John Flood recently commented on the ‘Rise of Boutiques?’ at his Random Academic Thoughts (RATs) Blog: http://johnflood.blogspot.com/2010/02/rise-of-boutiques.html. John comments that “niche areas of law are ripe for development and boutiques – whether traditional law firms or alternative business structures – are ideal candidates for delivering services to clients quickly and personally and much cheaper than the large law firms”. I believe that boutiques will have less concern about Tesco Law but such firms still need to develop and enhance their own personal brands. What Tesco Law will affect is general practice firms who may see their share of the market eroded in certain key areas in which they practice. I am of the view that even those firms can seek to differentiate themselves in the same way as the boutiques and those that do so sooner rather than later will stand a better chance when the brands arrive. On that front I agree with Neil that “Blogging, a well established Twitter account, demonstrating real interest and initiative can achieve a great deal even in the face of a changing market”. This does, of course, need to be substantially more than the bit of twittering or revamping of a webpage that some firms may consider sufficient and which Craig correctly tells us will be like “trying to fight an inferno with a water pistol”.

    At my law firm, Inksters, we practice in very niche areas of the law such as Crofting Law (most of you will probably wonder what that is!). I have no fear of Tesco Law competing with me in that arena. However, we also cover general conveyancing, family law and private client work. We are constantly building our personal brand in both the niche and the general areas and using a variety of means to do so. We are also part of a larger brand being one of Craig’s Quality Solicitors firms. This two prong approach will hopefully put us in a good position to combat Tesco Law where we need to and enhance our market share of the niche areas regardless. Time will tell whether this strategy was the correct one for Inksters to take.

    For what is going on in the public sector see John Floods Blog posts on ‘Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom’: http://johnflood.blogspot.com/2010/02/let-thousand-flowers-bloom.html and ‘The Flowers are Blooming…Already’: http://johnflood.blogspot.com/2010/02/flowers-are-bloomingalready.html

    In the latter post John points out that Kent County Council’s legal department has formed a quasi-joint venture with a regional law firm, Geldards, to “create a single brand for public sector work capable of taking over local authority legal departments.” The new “structure” will be called ‘Law:Public’. John states that It is clear that Law:Public aims to take over as much work as possible from the legal departments of local authorities. Local authorities could then close down or hive off their legal departments.

    Branding will I consider play an increasingly important role in the changing legal market. All law firm’s whether boutique, general, small, mid-sized or large need to take cognisance of this and take appropriate action to make their brand one to be reckoned with.

  44. This is a fascinating debate. I’d like to add a couple of points.

    Tesco was kicked out of the estate agency market the first time round because it had infringed the regulatory requirements at the time.

    The effect of the LSA and the LSB is to modify regulation and to increase competition in a market that has hitherto been allowed to be monopolistic.

    Generally speaking promoting competition is and will continue to be a “good thing” for governments.

    The LSB won’t restrict the types of legal services providers who come into the market. Yes, a thousand flowers will bloom.

    It might help if we think in terms of the provision of legal services in which lawyers will only be one of the many potential providers. For example, there will come a stage when legal process outsourcing companies become law firms of a kind as well. They will have economies of scale unknown to any law firm.

    And @BrianInkster is right in that boutiques will flourish because they will have targeted their market very well and will offer a service that clients like and are willing to pay for. Otherwise legal services are one of those things that people buy but would rather not.

    Price will in future be a major determinant.

  45. JBernoulli

    I am glad that this topic was discussed on this blog, totally agree with all the above, but there are some problems in the legal regulation in the light of recent changes in legislation. I would not wish to write here in great detail, much is written on the site http://moslegist.ru … But thanks anyway!

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