Tuesday 24 July 2012 by John Hyde
A Kent firm has unveiled plans to set up a national network of solicitor firms under its LawStores brand.
MTA Solicitors will offer firms the chance to join a panel to receive referrals through a branded website, contact centre and high street stores. The scheme is designed to shore up existing firms against competition from new entrants to the legal services market.
Only two firms in each area will be able to join the panel, with membership free for up to a year, MTA said. After the initial period, the model will be reviewed to see if a fee-sharing scheme or referral fees have to be introduced. For the first year at least, finance for the scheme will come from private investment.
The prototype was founded in 2010 in Bromley, Kent. There are now plans for LawStores to open in Cambridge, Manchester and London in the next 12 months, with further openings coming later.
MTA chief executive David Green (pictured) denied that the model was simply apeing that of QualitySolicitors, which has already created a nationwide brand of panel solicitor firms. He told the Gazette that signatory firms would not be required to adopt LawStore branding or prices, although they will not be allowed to undercut LawStore rates.
'We want to ensure that our customers receive the best legal advice and we will only work with solicitors who can meet ours and customers' service expectations,' said Green. 'This is about like-minded law firms standing together against new competition, while not compromising their individual values and independence.'
MTA claims that panel firms will have access to support services at preferential rates, including insurance, recruitment, IT and investigation providers. Firms signed up so far include Kent firm Judge & Priestly and London litigation practice Taylor Hampton.
The LawStore website, powered by document-automation provider Direct Law, will include pages for each participating firm, distributing enquiries on the basis of region and skill set. The call centre will do the same.