U.K. Consumers Add Legal Advice to Shopping Lists

Discussion
Oct 21, 2011
Bernice Hurst

In a world where the costs of legal services are perceived as being beyond the means of all but the richest, Britain’s new rules permitting lawyers to practice in retail premises may imply that prices will be affordable for all their customers.

Nicknamed “Tesco law” because its point, as the Financial Times reports, was to make access to legal advice as easy as buying a tin of beans, the new Legal Services Act means retailers in England and Wales are now free to establish consultancies on consumer law.

The intention is to “offer more choice and better value,” according to the BBC, adding “the government says the change would encourage economic growth in the industry and raise the profile of the UK as a first-class legal services market.” Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly (who has been reducing legal aid) claims firms will be able “to set up multidisciplinary practices and provide opportunities for growth,” making legal services “more accessible, more efficient and more competitive … benefiting from investment and allowing them to explore new markets.”

Under the new system, Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) will permit practices offering combinations of financial, legal and other advice, based at different kinds of business. The Financial Times describes the new system as “one of the most innovative in the world”, explaining ABSs “will be able to extend partnership to professionals other than solicitors … while companies that are not law firms, will be able to offer legal services” and citing benefits such as “longer opening hours and more services via modern communication methods.”

Channel 4 news emphasized the value of non-lawyers investing in and owning legal businesses.

First movers include the Co-operative Group, opening in banks, and newsagent and bookstore chain, WHSmith, hoping its partners, Quality Solicitors, will be in 300 locations by the autumn. Tesco itself reportedly has “no current plans to offer legal services.”

Opponents such as The QualitySolicitors.com grouping and the Solicitors Sole Practitioners Group worry that “good quality, local legal advice” could disappear or be undermined in an “untried and untested innovation” only implemented in parts of Australia. The Financial Times suspects “what even the biggest firms say in public … might be very different from what they say in private,” however.

Discussion Questions: Is there a market in the U.S. to access legal service in retail outlets? Would retailers benefit from having law firms in stores?

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9 Comments on "U.K. Consumers Add Legal Advice to Shopping Lists"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Sure, there’s a market for it, but the lawyers and bankers have already bought and paid for the government here, so it’s unlikely to happen in the U.S. If I were a retailer, would I want a little lawyer booth in my store? Nah. I’ve got friends who are public defenders, and the stories they tell about clients would curl your hair. Little doubt but that you’d get a fair amount of people who are shoplifters, wife beaters, and con artists. I’d not want to attract those types to my stores. Yes, I know, ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ So sue me.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

It’s almost Halloween so why shouldn’t we discuss vampires? Grocery stores are a universal destination for all members of a particular community. Pharmacies, banks, optical centers; all have made themselves available as shop-in-shops inside of brick and mortar retail. It will be interesting to see what type of legal advice and practice will take root in this environment. If this truly is about making advice on consumer law more accessible and efficient then it can be a valued customer service. However, my pessimistic side can’t help but believe that the personal injury lawyers (sorry, solicitors) will gravitate and dominate this ‘innovation’. They’ll be signs reading ‘Know your rights’ next to the specials on a pound of grapes. Something tells me that they’ll also be an increase in ‘clean up on aisle 9’ being heard over the public address system once they do!

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

My heavens, I’m being sued already! And somehow, through crowdsourcing social media twitterfeed iPhone walkie talkie, a lawyer has already reached out to me. Here’s his link: http://www.bettercallsaul.com/

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 6 months ago

I’m all for store-within-a-store but this is ridiculous. “Honey, we’re out of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and Tombstone Pizza! Can you pick up a living will and power of attorney while you’re out! Thanks!” Honestly, Tesco could fill up that location with booze or food or something that sells and make more money. I don’t usually agree with lawyers but I’m kind of onside with the whole quality of legal advice comment. Do they have shopping cart parking at the office? And when you’re documents are ready, do they provide a neon orange ‘paid for’ sticker? Jokes aside, I think this is a waste of time and space.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Open message to Warren – love it, thanks for sharing. Do please let us know if Saul turns out to be your new hero.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is a great concept whose time is now! Mixing legal services and allowing for mass marketing of legal services by investors will make the legal stigma of affordability of legal rights now available to the masses instead of just the rich. This will also give many laws more “teeth” as they are enforced or tested by the common man in our courts!

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This goes to the principle I urge on all retailers: Do not define your business by the merchandise you happen to carry on your racks and shelves, rather, define it by the wants and needs of the people coming in your door.

This principle leads to a swelling “long tail” of merchandise/services, with a parallel increase in attractiveness of the store. That is, more options makes the store more attractive in general. The challenge always is to have background awareness by the shopper NOT obstruct actual SELLING of the “big head,” those few items for which there is massive demand.

Obviously the economics of maintaining the long tail is always a pertinent consideration. But too few retailers have realistic views on its attractive properties, and are far too unfocussed on the big head. Failing to distinguish the two classes of offerings and manage each effectively, is a BIG sales suppressor.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
9 years 6 months ago
In the US, there is a market for legal services provided at stores. But I don’t think it’s a very big market, and it’s unlikely to be a key differentiator for many merchants. I see this as a potential front-end service offered by major discounters like Walmart, Target and Kmart — much like the income tax prep services offered by Walmart during tax season. Such retail legal services are reminiscent of the introduction of convenience clinics in retail stores. But there are some key differences. With healthcare, consumers have an almost daily need for some aspect of healthcare that retail clinics can fulfill (e.g., student physicals, first aid for minor injuries, etc.). But consumers don’t have an everyday need for legal services. With healthcare, shoppers have been solving health needs at retail for years (e.g., OTC meds, prescriptions, pharmacist discussions, etc.). But accessing legal services at retail is totally new. If an American retailer were to venture down the legal services path, it could work for a major discounter who partners with an established legal… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 6 months ago

Ever viewed TV’s “Harry’s Law” about a law firm in a shoe store (now in its second season)? Life follows art. Oops! This season the firm moved upstairs from the shoe store. Must not have worked as well as hoped.

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