Solicitors should get involved in Mary Portas’s plans to revive the high street – especially with the looming prospect of a massive increase in the Co-op’s ability to provide face-to-face legal advice, a law firm group has said.
Ms Portas’s independent review into the future of the high streets highlighted her concerns about “the progressive sprawl of the supermarkets into need-based services such as opticians and doctor’s surgeries, which were once the exclusive preserve of the high street”.
The TV personality – who consulted both the Law Society and Law Centres Federation during her review – said: “These critical high street and town centre services must not be simply gobbled up by the major supermarkets… we need a more sophisticated understanding of what a good deal for consumers is, looking beyond simply price-based considerations.”
The Bold Group – which has 120 law firm members – said the competition already bearing down on high street solicitors will only increase after the Co-operative was given preferred bidder status for 632 branches of Lloyds Bank.
If the deal goes through, the Co-op will have nearly 1,000 bank branches – which are where its legal arm is likely to de
liver face-to-face advice in addition to its current call centre operation.
After an initial trial earlier this year in three branches of the Britannia – which is owned by the Co-op – Co-operative Legal Services is currently running a larger-scale trial. A spokesman told Legal Futures that it will be assessed in the New Year.
Bold Group founder Rob Hailstone urged solicitors, conveyancers and estate agents to join any ‘town teams’ created as a result of Ms Portas’s recommendations. She saw these as a “visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets”.
He said: “They have local knowledge, contacts and expertise that could be invaluable. It’s important for estate agents to be aware of the new threats facing many high street conveyancing firms.
“Agents could end up losing the local firms which they have established relationships with – the firms that they are able to recommend to customers with confidence, because they know they are reliable, they provide a good service, offer competitive prices and in some cases pay a referral fee.”
Mr Hailstone added: “The game isn’t over for conveyancers or the slightly less threatened estate agents but they cannot afford to sit back and let others plan the future of their high streets.
“Whether you like Portas’s recommendations or not, being pro-active and getting involved is going to be key to ensuring a successful future for those independent firms, which add value and variety to our high streets as well as forming a vital element of the home buying and selling process.”