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Internet will control access to the law, says head of small business service

Internet: the new high street [1]

Internet: the new high street

The Internet will take over as the main way SMEs and consumers access the law, the owner of the biggest online advice service for small businesses has predicted.

Rory MccGwire, who runs the Donuts group of websites, forecast that instead of personal recommendations or going to the nearest law firm, consumers would rely on a mixture of online DIY, telephone or online help, and lawyer-matching or comparison websites.

“People won’t go to their nearest high street firm or the one their friend used and hope to get a good price,” Mr MccGwire said.

“They’ll go onto the Internet and educate themselves a bit, then go through a triage system – either on the phone or online. They will get forms from the Internet and do some DIY. If they want a solicitor they’ll go to a service like Lexoo, or for a barrister they’ll go to Clerksroom Direct.

“Those are the models going forward. Who would not want to use them? They will find you a fixed-price lawyer. This is the way we see things going. I’ve no idea when this technology shift will happen, but when it happens, we will be there.”

Mr MccGwire, chief executive of Atom Content Marketing, was speaking following the launch this month of the Sectors Donut, the latest in a series of websites which include Law Donut, as well as separate sites for tax, marketing, tech and start-up companies.

The Sectors Donut provides guidance on how to set up over 200 types of small business, including running a hotel, becoming a tree surgeon or a taxi driver.

Mr MccGwire said the Donut websites attracted an average of over half a million unique visitors a month in the first half of this year, and passed a million page views a month last year. He said that together they provided the biggest online advice service to small businesses.

He said that both lawyer-matching website Lexoo and direct access service Clerksroom Direct were among Law Donut’s partners, which help the website with content creation and provide helplines.

Daniel Van Binsbergen, chief executive of Lexoo, said: “Law Donut not only gets lots of traffic, it also educates people about the need for things like shareholders’ agreements and IP protection.

“But it can only go so far. At which point a portal such as Lexoo is the perfect next step. In 2016, this is how more and more people like to purchase services such as law.”

Law Donut has also partnered with marketing collective First4Lawyers, Clerksroom Direct, comparison and review website VouchedFor.com, Rocket Lawyer and IP specialists Marks & Clerk.

Mr MccGwire added that the government’s decision to close the £84m Business Growth Service in March had left the private sector to fill the gap.

“The services we and our partners provide fit perfectly with the move of the courts online,” he said. “It’s about allowing people to find the right solicitor for their budget extremely quickly and effectively. We’re just part of that.”