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Law – Coming to a supermarket near you

Most commentary about disruptive legal models has focused on innovative methods of production. Legal rags have been full of analysis about sending tasks to Indian LPO’s; undertaking work through ‘new model’ law firms like Plexus; or using technology such as Predictive Coding to drive efficiencies. However, surprisingly little has been written about the most rapidly evolving, and perhaps interesting space– legal service delivery.

Many industry stalwarts believe that the shake up of the legal industry will be contained to peripheral niches and largely process driven activities. Equally, they hold out naive hope that law firms will remain dominant in both legal production and service delivery.

In contrast, early moves in the recently deregulated UK market vividly illustrate what the future of the Australian legal landscape may look like. Across the last 18 months retail giants such as The Co-operative Group, the AA, and British Telecom, along with one large industrial Carillion, have launched legal service businesses.

These may seem like bold plays, however, given retailers moves into insurance, financial services, and telecommunications, we should not be too surprised. Services embody all the characteristics retailers salivate over: they have high margins, limited obsolescence, consistent demand, and require next to no space to sell or store.

It is likely these businesses will have as much success at the business of paint-by-numbers law as they have had with pile-it-high-and-watch-it-fly traditional retailing. A recent survey by a British Government body found that 60% of people would consider buying legal services from an established retail brand. In fact, since launching in 2007, The Co-op has grown its legal services offering into a $40 million business. With staff of more than 450 currently it has plans to increase to 3000 legal services employees over the next 5 years.

Trusted businesses like The Co-op have both the credibility and the resources required to rapidly erode the B2C bread and butter of suburban law practices.

Equally, businesses like Epoq in the UK have developed white-label solutions for big name banks & insurers such as Barclays, Capita, RBS, and AXA to provide personal legal services to their customers, at a low cost, as a value add service.

A more progressive commentator may question, will this end at retailing?

If a client doesn’t feel he needs to walk through the door of a law firm to receive legal advice, does he need to leave home at all?

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