Online Legal Services Ltd (OLS) – the company that runs the pioneering Divorce-Online website – has acquired south Wales family law firm Peter Thomas Law, Legal Futures can reveal.
It will enable Divorce-Online to capture the work arising from more complex divorces that is currently outsourced to other solicitors while it deals with uncontested splits.
OLS has worked with Peter Thomas Law for some time, with the lawyers handling a lot of consent order work. The firm became an alternative business structure (ABS) in October 2016 with OLS taking a minority stake, but it has now taken 100% ownership and its name will shortly change to OLS Solicitors.
The eponymous Peter Thomas will continue as head of legal practice and of finance and administration.
A new office will open in Swindon, where OLS is based, and recruitment has already begun. The two businesses combined have 22 staff.
The firm will operate on a fixed-fee menu where possible, offer an internet portal to allow clients track progress of their cases, and use apps, text messaging and other messaging platforms.
Mark Keenan, the joint managing director of OLS and OLS Solicitors, said the aim was to grow turnover from £1-2m to £5-10m over the next decade, and he was looking to ramp up staff numbers at OLS Solicitors “very quickly”. Divorce-Online dealt with 7,000 cases in 2016.
Mr Keenan, who was on the road to qualifying as a legal executive when he left to start the business in 2000, continued: “We have over time become one of the largest single providers of uncontested divorce services in the UK and our web sites are well placed to refer more complex cases to the law firm where there is over 20 years of experience in a range of family law problems.
“We have been working with the law firm for a number of years and it made sense for us to acquire our own firm to pass the work to.
“We have to remember that, in five years’ time, our clients will be the generation where they don’t even own a land line and everything is done on their mobile devices and our customer service needs to match how they communicate.”
Although primarily catering to a national and international customer base, OLS Solicitors will also commit to its local community in Swindon with free weekly surgeries and helping local advice charities.
Mr Keenan added: “It is amusing that, at the beginning, I was told [our business] would never take off and now we’re looking at an online divorce portal coming from the government.”