HighStreetLawyer.com (HSL) has added five new firms to its nascent national legal network after its successful pilot phase, Legal Futures can reveal.
HSL is also relaunching its website today as part of the ambition of founder Gary Yantin to reach 100 branches by the end of 2012.
The new firms are located in Bedford, Leicester, Croydon, Tyneside and Hampshire, adding to existing members in Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and London, where there are two.
Target firms are around four to five partners in size, and retain their own branding under HSL. However, they advertise themselves as part of the HSL network.
Mr Yantin, a commercial solicitor, claimed no other network offers the trio of key elements that HSL does: vetted referrals through its website, the right to use the HSL branding with central marketing support, and a back-office buying club. Among the providers signed up to offer HSL members services are Completion Monitor, Direct Law, Finders, First Title, Jennings, Landmark, Litigation Protection and SearchFlow.
Firms pay a referral fee for every case which leads to payment, plus a monthly membership fee. HSL does not seek a percentage of turnover.
Mr Yantin said he was “not convinced by the power of TV or above-the-line advertising for legal services because they are not desire-led” – rather they are distress purchases. “We’re going down the route of being in a referral network and being where the consumer is,” he explained, building relationships with the likes of financial advisers, accountants and finance directors.
HSL firms do have to commit to fixed fees and Mr Yantin acknowledged the difficulty of having work priced the same whether in London or Newcastle. “We have to be brave enough as a brand to know that’s a massive challenge, but it’s a challenge worth having.”
London firm Carr & Kaye was one of the pilot firms, and partner David Carr told Legal Futures that unlike most referral schemes he has experienced, HSL has “referred quite a bit of business to us that’s been of good quality”. He added: “HSL asks to work with us; we don’t want to be taken over.”
One of the new members is Kingswell Berney of Gosport, Hampshire. Senior partner Michael Vaughan said HSL offered the chance to grow with the help of a network while retaining the firm’s independence and not being subsumed by a brand. With new competition looming, “to do that all by ourselves would be almost too much of a challenge. We need a brand and need to band together”.
Scott Halborg of Halborg & Co in Leicester, another new member, added: “HSL is emerging as a strong brand attracting quality clients to the quality law firms which HSL is targeting. We see this as adding further reach to our marketing strategy, and it allows us to preserve our independence whilst remaining part of a respected network of firms.”
Mr Yantin said: “We are now confident that we have law firms across the country able to respond to consumers’ legal needs and provide an excellent quality service through a number of delivery methods, including online and in person.
“We have formed relationships with some of the key providers of services to law firms and our holistic approach to creating a legal brand means that we can now concentrate our efforts on the task of customer acquisition for our lawyer members.”