A law firm offering ‘click and collect’ legal services plans to double in size after securing its alternative business structure licence.
Leeds firm Winston Solicitors originated as an online-only legal practice from managing partner Jonathan Winston’s spare room 10 years ago and has grown into a 50-person business.
Mr Winston said his starting point was to offer legal advice at a lower cost than traditional firms by running a practice as a business without the overheads of seeing clients in person.
He said: “I’ve always been very forward thinking and I’ve always seen law as a business where you need to provide the right product at the right price to the client, rather than a professional service where the customer only knows their bill when told at the end.
“We were already an LDP (legal disciplinary practice), but ABS suits us perfectly because an LDP restricts the number of non-solicitor owners you can have.
“My view is a solicitors’ practice should be run as a business by those who are best suited for the role – rather than solicitors. Being a solicitor is not a qualification in running a business.”
As well as professional negligence and civil litigation disputes, Winstons provides typical high street advice in areas such as employment, family, personal injury and conveyancing.
However, Mr Winston said his “unique” mixed practice – which has around 10 other separately branded websites – offers a ‘click and collect’ style service which is becoming increasingly popular with local clients.
He explained: “The interesting development with the firm is our online offering of both distance and local work. It is a little like a shop offering the customer the opportunity to order online and collect from the store. It means we are now getting a lot of Internet instructions from people who are local, which means they either want to come to the premises in person, or gives them the reassurance that they can get face-to-face advice if they need to.
“It is very different to how we started out when our work was just online and all around the country… We see ourselves almost like a retail organisation. Marketing is vital. We are somewhere in between a traditional service but with the fee assurance – rather than a faceless online merchant site.”
The firm does not buy work in and has recorded 10 years of turnover growth to reach an annual figure Mr Winston puts in the “£2m to £5m” bracket. The firm employs 18 lawyers.
Mr Winston said the ABS approval will not lead to any immediate changes in the management structure, but that as the practice grows, it will be looking for more managers and business owners – legal and non-legal – in the specialist fields of finance, HR, compliance, and marketing.
He said: “ABS allows us to attract a better calibre of person because they know that one day they could be on the board.”
External funding is not an immediate option, added Mr Winston, but having it as an option for the future gives the firm a “market advantage” over similar sized traditionally structured firms.
He said the firm will continue to seek opportunities to grow organically and through acquisition to meet the aim of doubling revenue in the next three to five years.
Mr Winston set up the firm and website himself and then wrote a programme which enabled clients to calculate how much they were entitled to if they were made redundant or were unfairly dismissed.
He was previously a partner at Harland & Co in York and qualified with Zermansky & Partners in Leeds.