Legal Market Round-up: November 2012

No comments, posted on November 18, 2012

Direct Line has confirmed that it is considering setting up a legal services armwhen it is spun off from current owner Royal Bank of Scotland.



The revelation appears in a prospectus for a share flotation in the group, due to get under way this week. The document refers to the loss of income from referral fees from next April under the Jackson civil litigation reforms as having ‘a broadly neutral effect’.

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Standard bar contracts put back by three months. The introduction of standard contractual terms between barristers and solicitors has been delayed by three months to make sure all firms and chambers are prepared, the Bar Standards Board announced today.

The new terms will now take effect from 31 January 2013. They had been previously scheduled to take effect from 31 October this year.

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The creation of a regional virtual court is among plans revealed today by justice minister Damian Green to pilot dozens of ‘flexible’ court models. Five schemes will be trialled in 48 areas. They will include regional virtual courts that will enable preliminary hearings in the magistrates’ court held over videolink to be heard by another court in a different region. For example, a defendant arrested and detained in Lancashire will be able to appear by videolink in Chester.

The use of prison-to-court videolinks, removing the need for defendants to be transported and produced in court, will be increased to cover areas including Cardiff, Southampton, Manchester, Carlisle, Oxford and Reading.

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Survey reveals bullying, harassment and discrimination. One in six solicitors has been bullied in the workplace, according to research by the Law Society. Preliminary findings of the Society’s 2012 omnibus survey of the profession reveal that 17% of solicitors say they have been bullied at work. The percentage is higher for those working in government (25%) and commerce and industry (23%), compared with those working in private practice (16%).

Of around 1,600 who took part in the survey, 6% said they had experienced sexual harassment and 10% said they had been discriminated against.

Of those, 168 respondents who had experienced discrimination, nearly two thirds (64%) attributed it to their sex, 20% to their age, 20% to their ethnicity, 19% to social class. Other things also cited as factors were religion, disability, pregnancy and sexual orientation.

On the issue of stress, only 5% of practising certificate holders reported having no negative stress in the work; 65% reported either moderate or severe stress and 4% said they experienced extreme stress. However, only 2% said they had taken time off work due to stress over the past 12 months.

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Comparison site attacks online document market. Online price comparison website Compare Legal Costs has partnered with East Midlands firm Nelsons to offer fixed-fee online legal documents to businesses and consumers.

Nelsons provides more than 200 online documents suitable for personal or business use, covering building work to prenuptial agreements, divorce, motoring, power of attorney and wills, and business start-ups to debt recovery and leases.

The online templates include step-by-step guidance on completion and are available for a fixed cost. Documents can be completed without input from a lawyer, but some require review by a lawyer, Nelsons says. Where that is required Nelsons solicitors will review the document, also for a fixed fee.

The trend towards fixed-fee DIY solutions is attracting strong commercial interest. Two US firms, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer have announced ventures in the UK over the past two months. LegalZoom is partnering with legal marketing franchise QualitySolicitors and Rocket Lawyer is working with a panel of 25 firms in England and Wales.

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Law firms will have to adopt a more forceful marketing model if they are to survive in the post-alternative business structure (ABS) marketplace, a specialist in growing online businesses has urged.

To win legal business against ABS competitors who are already skilled retailers, lawyers will have become expert in such things as “networking, selling, social media, internet marketing, branding”, internet marketing consultants Moore Legal Technology (MLT) predict.

In a report, Generating business online, MLT argues that successful firms will have to move from a “passive marketing model to a more forceful one… The traditional model of opening an office and generating business through the golf club, old school contacts or clients wandering in through the door will no longer suffice…

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Online presence is main source of lead generation for commercial firms, says survey. Three-quarters of business law firms say that an online presence has been their single most effective tactic to generate new leads in the past year.

The poll of 209 business-to-business law firms around the world, excluding the US, found they are increasingly investing in developing their online activity.

According to the research by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, most firms – a third of which were based in Western Europe (21% from the UK) and nearly a fifth each in Latin America and Canada – viewed their website as “the central component of their marketing strategy” and half had an employee dedicated exclusively to it, the study said.

Firm categories surveyed ranged from 1-20 lawyers to 100+ lawyers. A majority of smaller firms spent more than about $15,500 (£9,666) on a website re-launch, compared to more than $46,500 in the case of over 40% of the largest firms.

Offline activities accounted for about 62% of the overall marketing budgets, with 38% spent online. Most firms expected to increase their online spending in future due to its “being lower cost” and offering “better reach and more flexibility” than conventional marketing.

Nearly two-thirds felt their website was successful “in generating inbound marketing leads” and a similar number said it helped to retain existing clients. But more than a third of firms (36%) “felt that their website failed to support them in winning new business”, it said – a view particularly prevalent among smaller practices.

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