A ‘virtual network’ of law firms that claims to be the first of its kind is gearing up to launch in February, aimed at giving smaller higher street firms a national reach and helping them compete with larger firms.
The commercial comparison site is based on a web platform devised by Gurpreet Singh, the founder and chief executive of Legal2G.com, an Indian national who recently completed an MBA at the University of Derby.
Mr Singh and his three partners would derive profit from a charge on profits from online transactions conducted through the site. He would not disclose the percentage.
Mr Singh told Legal Futures he had so far enlisted “nearly 10” firms to the venture and he would “definitely” have 100 by February. He said: “Our objective is to make the small-sized legal firms more competitive and innovative than ever before. That’s why we have developed an online platform that allows these firms to expand beyond their physical location and explore online opportunities.”
Firms wishing to join the network would log in to Legal2G – which the network’s pre-launch website says stands for “second generation legal services” – upload an online profile giving details of their practice, and after being approved would be able to transact directly with any clients via the portal. There is no membership fee.
The website would only record pertinent information, stressed Mr Singh. “It’s about the process, how much they charged for the transaction, and we just have a percentage of that; [only] financial information, not confidential information.”
He said that key features of the site included an appointment management system, through which clients could “request an appointment online 24/7”, to be carried out face-to-face or by video conference, and legal documents, which could be sold online.
Offering virtual appointments would “help the legal firms to have flexible working hours and a virtual approach, as [they] can assist clients from… home. In general, small firms can save money that otherwise they probably spend to manage premises,” said Mr Singh.
The website would be searchable by consumers by nine different parameters, including fixed fee, postcode, practice, price, and experience. Customers could recommend a solicitor or firm if satisfied, but there would be no opportunity to leave comments or otherwise indicate a negative experience.
He said development of the site was “almost finished”. In the months after launch, the site would develop additional technology so member firms “can have more power on the high street”.
Mr Singh said Legal2G was a “unique business model”. It would help small firms stand out from the crowd and its vision was to “revolutionise the legal sector”. Membership of the network was only open to firms regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and no other vetting of members would take place.
He declined to reveal how the business was funded.
Legal2G’s website said: “Our mission is to deliver cutting edge technology so that legal firms can grow beyond their region, remain competitive and provide accessible and transparent services to consumers.”
Mr Singh explained that he had a first degree in IT, an MBA and an “interest in the legal sector”. The venture was “a combination of the three things”.
The venture follows a number of similar online businesses, involving specialist panels, comparison sites, or joint marketing schemes. In October, the Legal Services Board published research  which found that there were “no barriers to services [being] delivered nationwide” but also that the solicitors’ market was vulnerable to national brands.