National law firm group QualitySolicitors (QS) is opening 54 new branches across England and Wales on Thursday, including what it says is the first ever legal store in a shopping centre.
Claiming the store will be “the start of a revolution in legal services”, QualitySolicitors Freeman Harris in Lewisham shopping centre, south London, will offer free initial consultations, late-night opening on Thursdays as well as weekend opening, and fixed-priced services, including “instant wills” drafted while clients finish their shopping.
There are now 69 QS branches, with a further 50 due to launch in February 2011 and more shopping centre stores in the offing, while there are also plans to introduce extended opening hours across all QS-branded locations. The QS advertising campaign is stepping up, with 10,000 primetime and daytime spots booked for November, including next week in Coronation Street and News at Ten. The daytime spots are focused on QS’s personal injury brand.
The news comes the week after the AA and Saga launched legal services websites as big brands’ interest in the legal market stepped up (see story). QS chief executive Craig Holt said: “Where QualitySolicitors has the advantage over the likes of the AA is that through our branch network we can offer the face-to-face, local service that customers still want from a legal service. That is crucial.”
Actress and Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden is officially opening two of the higher-profile new QS practices – Liverpool firm Jackson & Canter, whose managing partner is former Law Society president Andrew Holroyd, and Gruber & Garratt of Oldham.
Other firms taking on the QS branding include Rowlands Field Cunningham (Manchester suburbs), Martin Tolhurst (Ashford, Kent), Oliver & Co (Chester), Copley Clark & Bennett (Sutton), D’Angibau (Bournemouth), Knight Polson (Eastleigh), Devonalds (Pontypridd), John Barkers (Grimsby), CMHT (Walsall), Keith Park (St Helens) and Evans Derry (Coleshill).
Mr Holt said the shopping centre stores would help capture new clients and provide a drop-in point for updates on cases for existing clients. The level of service within the stores will vary from firm to firm – in some cases fee-earners will work there, while others will use specially trained staff, typically legal practice course graduates, to deal with customers. Video-conferencing facilities will allow contact with fee-earners back at the main office.
Mr Holt said QS will launch “a range of innovative services and products” early next year, although it is already rolling out the “instant will”, which is packaged like a magazine subscription gift pack and sold as a retail product bought off the shelf. The purchaser has the choice of whether to complete the will themselves online and have it checked by a lawyer, or do the will instore with the help of an adviser.
All the firms in the QS group are in the process of agreeing a range of services to be offered via fixed fees, and in some cases – such as wills – at the same price across the board. The instant will is currently priced at £125, but Mr Holt said this will change to be “extremely competitive with the prices offered by some of the newer brand entrants”.
The only other law firm brand with a significant shopping centre presence is Lawyers2You, run by Birmingham firm Blakemores, which has stands in 25 centres across the Midlands.