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ABS owned by global insurer unbundles legal services for SMEs

Walkie Talkie: LHS shares with Markel [1]

Walkie Talkie: LHS shares with Markel

The law firm owned by global insurance giant Markel relaunched this week with a product that unbundles legal advice for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

LHS Solicitors – which was bought by Abbey Protection before Abbey was then acquired by Markel [2] – offers a £50 ‘quick review’ service that allows clients to post relevant documents online, if necessary, and then receive an advice call of up to 30 minutes from a solicitor or barrister within two hours.

If the client goes on to instruct the firm, the £50 is credited against their bill, but Richard Candy, managing director of LHS, told Legal Futures that the firm’s business model “is not based on full instructions”.

LHS will also shortly launch an online legal information and document portal that will enable clients to self-serve if they want.

Its redesigned website [3] drives down to the kind of problem a would-be client has – eg, ‘We’ve got a situation with warranties’ or ‘I’m complaining about bad building works’ –and, unusually, provides a rough cost and time estimate for how long it may take to resolve.

Last year LHS – which started life in Manchester as Lewis Hymanson Small – said it aimed to triple its £12m fee income within five years [4]. It employs 120 staff between offices in Manchester, Croydon and London’s Walkie Talkie building, where it shares space with Markel.

As well as SMEs it provides some services for individuals and also has an affinity business, which includes taking around 150,000 calls a year from members of the Federation of Small Business to its legal advice telephone service.

Mr Candy said: “The time for SMEs to get a better deal when it comes to buying legal services is long overdue. We strongly believe that law firms need to fundamentally change the way they operate to give customers more choice, more transparency on costings, and a speedier and more relevant service.

“We’re confident we’re one of the only law firms in England and Wales with the resources and the most intimate knowledge of SMEs to deliver what they really need and want on a day-to-day basis. This includes 24-hour legal advice, rapid response times, and clear, no-nonsense fees all delivered by real people who clients can talk to or meet.

“During the next five years, the legal market will move more towards a retail-style, consumer-driven approach to the delivery of more convenient legal solutions for businesses. We’re proud to be pioneers and we’re excited to be leading the way.”

He added that Markel’s “business input and huge balance sheet” gave LHS the platform to grow.