QualitySolicitors has teamed up with a mediation provider to offer a fixed-fee legal solution for the type of small claims disputes that it said most “shortsighted” law firms will not touch.
The network said law firms were missing out on potential clients of the future by not helping them run their own small claims.
After low-cost initial advice from QS, it will refer suitable clients to Leicester-based Small Claims Mediation (UK) Ltd, which describes itself as the only specialist service of its kind outside of the Ministry of Justice.
QS provides an initial free 10-15 minute call to advise on whether the matter is worth pursuing. If so, customers can buy 30 minutes of telephone advice for £49 if the amount in dispute is £500 or less and there is no paperwork to review.
For £99, customers can have a 45-minute telephone or face-to-face meeting for any amount in dispute under £10,000, and the lawyer will review relevant paperwork.
For those cases where mediation is the best option, customers pay a £20 administration fee and £99 for up to two hours of telephone mediation where the amount disputed is under £5,000, which QS said should be enough for most cases. If more time is needed, it is charged at £59 per hour.
For disputes worth £5,000 to £15,000, the fee is £339 for up to three hours’ mediation, rising to £639 for cases valued at £15,000 to £50,000, which gives users up to four hours. Any dispute beyond that is a bespoke price.
Small Claims Mediation said that 97% of its mediation agreements are followed by both parties.
John Baden-Daintree, head of legal services at QS, said that even though many people could do with help in navigating the small claims court process, “most law firms do not offer a cost-effective service to help with small claim disputes; in fact most don’t get involved with small claims at all”.
He said: “We think this is shortsighted, not only because it may mean consumers and businesses give up and don’t recover what is rightfully theirs, but it also means the law firm loses a client. We know if someone gets a good service, they are likely to come back for other legal advice.
“So we have made our small claims service easy to follow, with fixed fees that include VAT, so clients know exactly what to expect. It will help consumers and businesses get a fair outcome as quickly as possible, only using QualitySolicitors where they need a bit of support. It’s about adding value, not adding unnecessary extra costs.”
Small Claims Mediation is headed by former Ministry of Justice civil servant Jo Holland, who set up the Small Claims Court Mediation Service for the East Midlands while there. Since leaving the Civil Service, she has handled 800 mediations and achieved a settlement rate in excess of 90%. Some 16 other mediators work with her.