The first law firm franchise formally opens for business today under the face2face solicitors brand.
John Burrowes, founder and former senior partner of leading Shropshire firm PCB, has struck out as a sole practitioner in Shrewsbury, offering a mix of commercial and private client advice.
Ray Gordon, the chairman of face2face solicitors, said he plans to build a national brand with 600 franchises across England and Wales, replicating quality and client care standards. With three or four more likely to open before Christmas, he added that he would be happy to have 50-100 franchises in place by mid-2013.
Face2face, which launched in February, is aimed at small firms with a turnover of up to £1.5m, breakaway practice groups and start-ups on the premise that the current law firm model has too high a cost base.
Supported by the likes of Solicitors Own Software, it provides franchisee solicitors with centralised back-office systems – including accounts, IT and regulatory compliance – and central marketing and business development, to enable them to focus on the legal work.
Franchisees pay a one-off fee of £25,000 and 8% of annual income. They have to be limited companies and not partnerships to encourage retention of profit.
The network is being marketed on the basis that these are firms with a best of breed infrastructure often only available to large firms, but able to maintain a personal relationship with clients.
Mr Burrowes said the franchise approach was “a better way of doing things” given the time, energy and finance required to get a start-up off the ground, and particularly the “logistical nightmare” of regulatory compliance. “It is reassuring and liberating to be backed up by a complete support structure and team of experienced professionals,” he added. “I’m hoping that the face2face franchise will be a nationally recognised brand.”
Mr Gordon said: “As a franchisee, John has been able to set up a business with a reduced capital requirement and will be able to grow his practice more rapidly with lower overheads and with the security of being part of a national brand. He will also achieve a level of compliance and efficiency that may otherwise have been cost prohibitive. Ongoing planning and mentoring support are yet further benefits John will receive from the franchise.”
Though originally Mr Gordon was looking at investment from the City, he said they were instead financing the network themselves because investors would want it rolled out too quickly. A joint venture with a financial services provider remains on the cards. Mr Gordon said face2face may become an alternative business structure and seek external investment in time.
- Ray Gordon will speaking at next month’s Legal Futures Conference.