Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

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17 September 2010


Posted by Neil Rose, Editor, Legal Futures

Strong focus: CPP has been working on what consumers, not lawyers, want

When you have been to as many legal conferences as I have over the past 15 years (and boy, have I been to a lot), you get practised at tuning in and out and getting on with other stuff – with the best will in the world, I’ve heard a lot of it before (and often from the same people). So listening to Shirley Woolham of CPP Group at the Epoq/Plexus Law conference on Tuesday (see story) was exciting on a couple of levels.

First of all, here was a voice none of us had heard before (I must confess to not knowing of CPP, but then they do mainly offer white-label services, so I don’t feel too bad). Second, her dissection of the legal services market rang true. Her relentless focus on what consumers need and want, with the benefit of CPP’s considerable experience, is a foretaste of what might be coming down the track with alternative business structures.

Away from the big, obviously “legal” stuff, people want help with the little things in life that are legal problems but that they would never dream of approaching a solicitor over for all sorts of reasons. That people are put off by the legal process and cost of legal advice is nothing new, but CPP’s research has also found that consumers enjoy researching their rights and resolving personal disputes online, but equally a third of people did not know where to start in trying to resolve an everyday dispute. It was particularly interesting and surprisingly to find a good number suspicious of free legal support.

Clients want convenient and accessible advice, and a one-stop shop. Do many law firms really provide that today? And I mean really provide it? Like most things in life, this is in part about relationships. As Richard Cohen of Epoq told delegates at the conference, big brands are touching their customers on a regular basis; in general law firms forget about their clients as soon as the file is closed and bill paid.

There is a significant crossover here with the broader issue of public legal education to help people recognise problems and head them off at the pass, as well as the role of legal aid in the future – for example, there is a head of steam building behind the idea of a legal NHS Direct, a triage service that would help the public if possible or direct them to the most appropriate resource.

But for all that CPP’s proposition sounds sensible and appealing, it has a huge cultural barrier to overcome if it is to persuade people to spend money, even a relatively modest sum like £50, in anticipation of needing legal assistance. Though this is not legal expenses insurance, the offerings are not dissimilar and to date there has been no public appetite for standalone before-the-event cover, preferring instead to pay £20 to bundle it in with a home or car policy.

It is interesting that Halifax started down the road of a pre-paid annual subscription to a wide range of services via Halifax Legal Solutions, but now is just charging by the transaction via the rebranded Halifax Legal Express. The recession and the bank’s problems obviously did not help, so perhaps circumstances conspired against them and we cannot read too much into this.

It goes without saying that everyone should be working towards making the law as accessible as possible for consumers. It also goes without saying (I think) that too often the law is designed by lawyers for lawyers, not the people they serve. Non-lawyers, obviously, don’t think like this and that is where the big shift may well come next October.

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5 Responses to “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

  1. I am pleased to have just dicovered Legal Futures, and I completely echo these comments. We have a business model for providing commercial legal services to SMEs that is entirely geared towards meeting their needs, in a climate where cost efficiency and a sensible attitude to risk are paramount. At this level, what businesses want is legal services that are accessible, user-friendly, good value and proportionate to their needs. We legal service providers need to do what we can to facilitate this – which includes helping businesses to self-serve where appropriate, and helping to increase awareness around legal issues. It makes sense because if our clients flourish, then so do we. I am convinced that this is the way forward for this section of the commercial legal services market, and would be delighted to hear from anyone who has similar views.

  2. Nicola Proudlock on September 17th, 2010 at 11:13 am
  3. In the USA there is a vibrant pre-paid legal insurance market with over 30 providers and 18m Americans in these types of plans at an average of about $250 per annum.

    In Germany and Spain and right across Europe similar schemes exist where consumers pre pay for legal advice and assistance.

    The pre-paid market has not yet been cracked by anyone but it’s a huge prize waiting to be collected.

  4. Richard Cohen on September 17th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
  5. CPP’s plans are interesting. A number of legal expenses insurers are already plugged into Epoq and offer policyholders access to on line legal documents, the law directory,document checking and solicitor referral services. Services are invariably backed with 24/7 telephone legal advice and an insurance indemnity.Consumers will usually pay less than £25. Business customers can also get access to an employment audit by HR professionals.

  6. Lesley Attu on September 20th, 2010 at 8:53 am
  7. This is the key para. for me:

    But for all that CPP’s proposition sounds sensible and appealing, it has a huge cultural barrier to overcome if it is to persuade people to spend money, even a relatively modest sum like £50, in anticipation of needing legal assistance. Though this is not legal expenses insurance, the offerings are not dissimilar and to date there has been no public appetite for standalone before-the-event cover, preferring instead to pay £20 to bundle it in with a home or car policy.

    The US market develped out of members organisations (I think) and before the internet really took hold? I suspect that the CPP type service might rapidly be overtaken by a leads-driven referral site that offers ‘quality’ referrals and free initial/signposting advice of the kind envisaged here.

  8. Richard Moorhead on September 20th, 2010 at 9:28 am
  9. The big firms and partners are snapping up the Epoq offering. But the smaller firms aren’t because they are too busy running their businesses. Which is a shame. Who would have thought that millions would take up identity theft insurance. But they do. So why not legal services? The key is in the price. it has got to be a low price add-on. Which it can be if IM and Epoq and CCP can work it out. After all it’s worth just covering costs to get a new client. And maybe even losing a little on the first transaction. Provided there is a proper marketing sequence to these newly attracted clients. Anyone that isn’t excited by working with another company’s millions of clients is probably dead already. Ultimately, who ever moves the free line the furthest will get most client sign ups. And then market to them like crazy with as many targeted offers as they can. But that’s radical and there aren’t many firms prepared to act in this way. I predict a winner if the price is right.

  10. Boyd Butler on September 21st, 2010 at 9:58 pm

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