A sole practitioner has launched a business offering a range of unbundled legal services at fixed fees, including consultations via Skype for people who need help conducting their own cases.
With elements of several recently-announced innovative pricing ventures and of the Bristol Law Shop, which sells small chunks of legal advice to litigants-in-person (LIPs), Emel Hussein’s iSolictor UK goes further, offering a web ‘shop’ with a menu of fixed-fee services, run by a team of freelance lawyers working on a fee-sharing basis and covering a swathe of the south-east.
As well as face-to-face fixed-fee case handling, iSolicitor – the trading name of the traditional practice, EA Law, which Ms Hussein set up in 2007 – includes such services as a £50 Skype or telephone consultation, lasting at least 30 minutes, a £150 document check service for up to 10 documents aimed at LIPs, and a £65 one-off ‘letter before action’ service in conjunction with the online consultation.
The business, which describes itself as “an innovative online legal shop of UK-regulated solicitors that delivers flexible one stop legal solutions”, also offers low-cost seminars on marriage visa applications and employment law for small businesses, taking place at its New Barnet, Hertfordshire, offices.
It also sells wills for £120, including an online or in-person consultation with a solicitor, and mediation – covering family and a wide range of other civil or commercial matters – from £100 per party.
Ms Hussein, an immigration specialist who first registered the domain in 2000, told Legal Futures it had taken some time to raise the funding to launch iSolicitor. So far, the team includes four lawyers: a barrister-mediator, two solicitors, and a dual-qualified solicitor/barrister. “If the practice succeeds and grows, then I will probably recruit more freelance solicitors,” she said.
Members of the team currently work from offices in Hertfordshire, London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent and will visit clients.
iSolicitor is aimed at people who do not qualify for legal aid but need, at least in part, to conduct cases themselves, said Ms Hussein. “When the Law Society’s president recently talked about unbundling, I thought to myself ‘that’s what I’m doing, effectively’,” she added.
She continued: “I have always offered fixed fees. Particularly with small claims it’s not economic to instruct a solicitor but whenever they need us they can get guidance with online consultations through Skype and if they want representation, we can provide that too.
“So it’s just chunks, whatever they need from us we will provide that and we will clearly identify what we will be doing for them so there’ll be no misunderstandings… We say beforehand ‘this is what we’ll do and this is how much it will cost’.”
Ms Hussein explained that the online consultation fee of £50 per 30 minutes had been arrived at by trial and error. “We’ve tried all different prices. People get put off when it’s too high and when it’s free they say they will come… and then they don’t turn up. But £50 seems to work.”
Consultations often run over the 30 minutes. She said: “It always lasts longer… but we don’t do what some firms do when they say it’s a free consultation but all they do is outline what they can do for you. We actually give the advice and sometimes it’s enough for the person just to deal with their own case.”