The challenge for QualitySolicitors

Posted by Louise Restell, head of public and legal affairs at Legal Futures Associate Russell Jones & Walker

Restell: standardisation cannot reduce quality

The news that QualitySolicitors (QS) had bought 10,000 TV advertising slots in November was met with disbelief by my marketing director: ‘In one month? Impossible – there’d be no room for the programmes!’

He’s now been vindicated because the TV statistics with which we have been provided show that QS’s November campaign delivered 450 spots and 25.8 million adult equivalent impacts (one impact = one adult watching one advert), with just two of those spots delivering 51% of those impacts (Coronation Street and News at Ten). Overall, since the end of September, when the campaign started, QS has bought 1,384 spots, according to our figures.

Despite this slight overegging of the pudding, the fact that QS is buying any TV slots at all is pretty amazing and brings to mind the comment Labour constitutional affairs minister Bridget Prentice made on publication of the legal services white paper back in 2005. She said she did not see why consumers should not be able to get legal services as easily as they can buy a tin of beans.

As the leader of Which’s campaign for legal services reform, I agreed with her, but the hoo-ha that ensued basically accused Ms Prentice of misunderstanding the nature of legal advice and, by championing alternative business structures, threatening to compromise its quality.

Well, now we are almost there and if QS is teaching us anything, it’s that you can, in fact, package and sell legal services like a tin of beans, or at least some of them. You can walk into a store in a shopping centre and pick up a standard divorce or will. Or, just as you can with, you can buy your divorce or will from an online provider, like Russell Jones & Walker’s Your Legal Rights.

But legal services are different from beans, because while it’s relatively easy to standardise the packaging – and the law firms involved have obviously bought into the power of being part of a recognisable brand – the issue for QualitySolicitors will be whether it can actually deliver a standardised service while not compromising on quality.


    Readers Comments

  • Standardisation brings its own problems and benefits, but the interesting thing about outfits like QS is whether they will raise or lower quality as a result of their inteventions. I have doubts about the plausibility of their claims to provide ‘5-star’ service ( but this kind of model (if franchises take seriously the raising of quality thresholds) might have more potential than (say) the Law Society trying to please all of its members whilst seeking to improve specialisation panels. The Law Society is likely to face political pressure towards a lowest common denominator approach () whereas, a franchisee might have more incentive to provide genuinely distinctive quality. The difficulty will be in encouraging them away from rather modest ‘client satisfaction’ type measures to more sophisticated notions of quality. Can the market deliver this? Does it suggest a need for regulation? Interesting times.

  • Craig Holt says:

    Dear Louise,

    You are quite right in highlighting the key challenge for QS in 2011, but it is a challenge we are confident we can rise to.

    QS has a clear strategy for achieving its goal of becoming the ‘household name’ for legal services in the UK. The unrivalled physical presence across the UK (there’ll be fully branded firms in over 100 visible locations before the winter ends and 300 before the end of 2011) will go a long way towards achieving this. Alongside this we have an increasingly high profile marketing campaign of which TV is just one, albeit the main, element. The 10,000 slots mentioned were in fact booked but for various reasons we decided to postpone many of them until the New Year when we will have much better UK-wide coverage (although the final ‘slot’ numbers were higher than in the post above).

    This combination of physical presence and high profile marketing, we are confident, will make QualitySolicitors the brand of choice for our target ABC1 demographic for legal services (both private client and owner-managed businesses/SMEs).

    Developing a recognisable name however is but half of the equation. To have a true ‘brand’ there needs to be something of substance to the name; a ‘gut feel’ people have when they hear it. This is where our unparalleled focus on ‘customer service’ will come to the fore in 2011. By being on TV and having some shopping centre locations, QS is increasing the accessibility of legal services. Ultimately, however, QS is not primarily interested in the commodity, volume market but in the high quality, predominately face-to-face legal services market. Early next year we’ll be revealing a raft of genuine innovations all with customer service at their heart. While each QS firm is independent, all will provide these innovations which will focus on making accesing legal services easier and putting people at ease when doing so. “Standardising” in this way on key matters does not necessarily equate to the need for bland, identikit type operations. In a similar model to the Best Western Hotel group, each firm can retain its own ‘personality’ and individuality whilst having shared standards and ethos with the other QS firms.

    Watch this space in 2011 when QS will not just become well-known by the public at large but known specicially for an exceptionally high level of customer service; something of a rarity in a legal professional in which even the very phrase “customer service” makes many uneasy!

  • Jon Busby says:

    I find the Quality Solicitor model very interesting.

    I also find it interesting how they attract so many comments here and on other sites. I think it is quite disappointing how genuine innovation is always met by the legal profession with scepticism.

    The truth is noone knows whether the QS model will work or not…it is simply too early to say. However its central premise is accessible legal services. Surely that is a good thing.

    But its success will be less dependent on what lawyers think of it, (and lets be honest lawyers aren’t exactly the best people to say what will and not work for consumers), and absolutely about what clients think.

    Remember Betamax v VHS? Betamax was the better format, but VHS marketed itself better. Betamax lost and people were quite happy with VHS.

  • The Quality Solicitors brand will live or die by how well its member firms live up to the promise contained in the title, pure and simple. The difficulty may be in defining what is “quality” in this context, if it isn’t just to be the subjective perspective of individual clients. QS is to be applauded for two things: one, demanding a transparent commitment to clients which, if firms don’t live up to this, will quickly develop the wrong reputation in the marketplace, and two, the expectation that all member firms will achieve the Law Society’s practice management standard, “Lexcel”, which is as good an indication there is of a well run law firm taking its commitments seriously. Yes, the marketing approach is new and yet to prove its worth. But the firms involved will be excellent law firms however they get their business.

  • The biggest threat to QS will come from am unusual source. We have been discussing in our office for some time it will not be long before the big supermarkets get involved in supplying legal services.

    Like they have done with Pharmacy, Opticians etc

    The big supermarkets pride themselves on delivering ‘first class’ customer service (though this is open to interpretation as to what constitutes good customer service from a supermarket.

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