At least seven major brands will be launching high-profile campaigns to enter the UK legal services market in the next year, it has been revealed.
Meanwhile, an investor with access to significant funds is waiting to assist a claims management company to embark on a series of law firm acquisitions in the personal injury field.
Speaking at the Legal Futures conference in London yesterday, which was sponsored by NatWest, Richard Cohen, chairman of the document automation provider Epoq Group, said that seven legal brands were planning to enter the “legal space” alongside Co-operative Legal Services, and US entrants Rocket Lawyer and Legalzoom.
Epoq provides the technology behind a number of online legal services delivered by 33 leading banks, insurers and financial service companies, serving some 60,000 consumers and business each year, which he estimated took £40-50m away from solicitors.
Mr Cohen would not name the seven but said they will begin “high-profile campaigns within the next 12 months or so”.
Mr Cohen told the 200-strong audience that the seven were “very wealthy strangers” who “understand technology and efficiency”, are “experts in customer service”, and who “know how to brand and market”. He warned lawyers that “they are here to take your business” and that this would happen in the next 12 to 24 months.
Another speaker, Andy Wigmore, policy director of the Claims Standards Council, revealed that he is a director of a hedge fund which “has been hovering” over the personal injury market. The fund is poised to back a claims management company and make “some very strategic investments and acquisitions of very niche law firms”.
He said the claims management companies in which the fund has – or is soon to have – an interest are “mature, refined, technology-driven, efficient processes” which have already built “direct and strong relationships with brokers and insurers”. Mr Wigmore continued: “They already have established legal process outsourcing services. In everything but name they are already working with very niche solicitors’ firms.”
He added that “sales processing outsourcing” would also become a “critical component” in future legal services. “Once you’ve got the customers there’s all sorts of things you can offer them. I think that will be a new revenue stream that is not yet matured in this country but I’m pretty sure it is going to be in the next two years or so.”
He predicted that the government would find it impossible to ban referral fees altogether and that in personal injury, “claims management company outsourcing operations will become the engine of high street brands”.