Legal advice to be available on the high street


6 October 2011

by Stephen Gregory

Under the new Legal Services Act it will be possible in England and Wales for high street retailers such as banks and supermarkets to offers legal services to their customers along with their more conventional products.

The new legislation allows non-lawyers to invest in and own legal businesses.

The government says the changes will provide more choice and better value to the public. Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly claimed it was a “landmark day” for the legal industry.

"Our legal services are already rated among the best in the world, used by millions of people around the globe as well as in the UK, and these changes will set them up to move to new heights. They will enable firms to set up multi-disciplinary practices and provide opportunities for growth," he said.

"Potential customers will find legal services become more accessible, more efficient and more competitive."

Traditionally the ownership and financing of firms offering legal services has been tightly regulated, but under new bodies known as alternative business structures, lawyers will be able to work in mixed practices and base themselves in different kinds of businesses.

Those not in favour, however, say that it will lead to a decline in the quality of legal advice. When it was proposed in 2009 critics the Act the derisive appellation of “Tesco Law”, and a coalition of around 100 law firms was even established to oppose it.

The Co-operative is already trialling the provision of legal services in some of its Bristol locations. Sales and marketing director for Co-operative legal services, Jonathan Gulliford, said customers would appreciate not having to enter solicitors’ offices. He said: “[It is] not something they want to be doing and on the whole they don't like doing it. We want to get in to help our members and to do the work for them.”

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