New TV ad for Co-op Legal Services insults solicitors

TVsThe Co-Op has launched a huge new TV ad campaign for its recently launched legal services division . Nothing unusual about that of course – the Co-Op is a national brand and will want need plenty of customers to justify all the money spent.

But, frankly, I cannot believe the approach they are taking. According to Marketing Week, the ads focus on the Co-Op’s alleged “simple and straightforward approach and use of plain English”.

Hmmm. The insinuation is straightforward– “go to the Co-op if you want straightforward and accessible advice. You won’t get that from a regular family solicitor.”

Ian Mackie, sales and marketing director for the Co-op’s legal division, makes this approach outrageously clear, telling the magazine:

“We’ve done a lot of research and talked to a lot of customers about their fears and anxieties of using legal services and talking to solicitors. They worry if they can trust the advice, or if they’re being ripped off or the jargon makes them feel small. We understand that. It’s a natural thing for the Co-op to put the customer at the heart of our plans. For a solicitor it’s an alien approach.”

“An alien approach”!! How does he think law firms attract any clients at all through our doors? Solicitors do not represent other solicitors – we represent the public, people with no legal expertise and we have to be able to communicate with them. We work every day with clients who rely on us to represent their best interests during some of the most difficult and emotionally-draining experiences in their lives. If all we did was bombard them with legal jargon and make them feel small, none of us would stay in business very long.

The suggestion that family law is some kind of closed shop in which the views of our clients count for nothing is very wrong. We do not operate in a vacuum and here at Stowe Family Law our reputation for expertise and trustworthiness has been carefully constructed over many years of hard work. Many of our clients come to us via the recommendations of previous clients. There are few more valuable commodities than a good reputation,

Similarly any solicitor who tried to “rip off” or mislead customers would be discovered pretty quickly and go out of business just as fast. Solicitors work to a strict code of conduct and the badly behaved can be ‘struck off’ and have their right to practice removed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Yes, just like doctors.

You may think I am overstating the case with the headline to this post but I think it is if anything an understatement.

The Co-op is at heart a supermarket and it is taking the same approach to law as supermarkets do to food retailing – rely on a strong brand name, pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap and try to drive rivals out of business. But the rest of us aren’t going anywhere.

Photo by Wags05 via Wikipedia

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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16 comments

JamesB - June 6, 2013 at 11:43pm

Seems a bit defensive that. It is a bit of a closed shop. One example i found recently was that it costs £1,000 min for a prenup via a solicitors. I suggest that is too much and the market needs to be opened up for everyone including its own good.

Steve - June 7, 2013 at 6:45am

Show me a solicitor who is not intent on cost build and I will show you a flying pig……….

a different Steve - June 7, 2013 at 7:43am

Actually very few solicitors are “intent on cost build”, simply because we make more money from ten new clients resolved quickly than from one long drawn out case over the same period, never mind the bad word of mouth pointlessly ramping up the bill would generate. I don’t ask you to believe that we’re good people, as you already seem to be prejudiced that we can’t be, but at least believe we’re interested in profit.

Also, James, £1000 is the low end of the market for a “pre nup” – they’re not like wills, basic form documents you can run off relatively easily. You’ll have noticed we all charge the same sort of price as our competitors for the work: it’s not the going rate just because of some shady price fixing scam, but because it’s not physically possible to make it cheaper without seriously cutting corners. (Otherwise we’d slash that cost and drive our competitors out of that business.) Anything less than that and I’d have serious doubts about how much work had actually gone into it.

Nonetheless, if you can’t afford that, you really, really don’t need a pre nup, regardless of what you’ve been told.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 10:44am

Wills are an excellent analogy.

Yes, I can afford £1,000. But desbite what you say it doesn’t cost £1,000 to do it.

I wouldn’t spend £1,000 on a will, I shouldn’t have to on a pre nup.

I wouldn’t spend £1,000 on a new mattress when I would be happy with a £400 one.

I am glad we are discussing the real meat of this issue here and think we have both had our say. I do not think £1,000 for a pre nup is reasonable.

I could give other examples. Indeed I will.

Legal power of attorney forms….

Solicitor again quoted thousands for it. I ended up doing it myself for free (plus the court fee).

Execution of wills…

etc.

People are better educated these days I think the free lunch on the back of talking posh is over for you people – I include politicians in that bracket. No, it is not good enough to just trust you cos you talk posh. Reminds me of Blair on Iraq. He was and is a lawyer too.

I don’t mean to be bad and am not anti lawyer. But you guys need to get real. If you keep over charging, people will use you less.

You need to open up the market and have good quoting and costing information and run these things more efficiently.

Lawyers for the common man, where are they? Good for the co-op I say, I agree with them there is a gap in the market here and wish them luck with it.

Hopefully they will enable the opening up of the market and stop the gravy train and excessive charging of people. I have been the victim of it in the past and do not think the closed shop monopolistic charging that goes on is fair. The pre nup example I have given is why I do not.

If the co-op had got there solution out before I may have gone with them for a pre nup for £500.

The work involved is really not worth £100 if both partners are educated and discussed and descided what they want anyway.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 10:46am

Yes, we did our own and had it witnessed by friends. Yes, I think is valid. Yes, I think I saved myself a thousand pounds and a lot of hassle.

Observer - June 7, 2013 at 10:48am

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, may I add, is infamous for creating the appearance of accountability, but in reality could not care less about misconduct. On the contrary, the SRA exists to protect those that are guilty of it. This is fact, and I have all sorts of evidence to prove it.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 10:53am

Also there aren’t the number of clients there were as costs are so high (re your ten clients example and my opening up the market for your own good comment). If you had lower costs you would have more customers.

I commend Marilyn for such good business behaviour and said the same to her recently on another of her posts. She uses the average bill to her customers as a KPI on how her business is going.

I do agree with you that the right criteria a lawyer can be judged on is how many customers they have.

The problem is there are less customers and if you are not careful – like my ex wife – you can find yourself with a struggling lawyer ramping up bills. Hence why people like me get caught with ridiculous bills in divorce etc.

So, yes, I am all for tesco law in this space. Having gone to court over 40 times on a non contentious divorce for money and children, arguing on such things as whether I should drink vitimin c orange drinks in the same room as them and what factor sun creme I should use etc. seriously.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 10:55am

Actually had to defend myself drinking vit c orange supplement (soluable) in the same room as the children. Strewth, what a waste of money. So much money was wasted on my divorce was an absolute disgrace.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 10:57am

Judges couldn’t or didnt do anything to stop the costs escalating either. They just look after their fellow lawyers rather than the public – which is against what they on their large publicly funded salaries are there for anyway. The system stinks and needs opening up.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 11:08am

£1000 for a prenup is too much. I would pay £500 maximum. The labour required is three hours max. Your quote is over £300 per hour for not much skill and is unfair. One of us two is being unrealistic and needs to get real and I don’t think it’s me ;-).

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 11:11am

Tony Blair on going to war in Iraq says all you need to know about lawyers. They always know best apparently. I think Iraq was a mistake at the time and I still do now.

Still he sounded good when he argued for it. Lots of charm and nice words over substance and therein is the problem, that is not enough anymore. Not within a global marketplace.

Scared Solicitor - June 7, 2013 at 11:35am

I’m a solicitor and scared that co-op are removing the mystique of the legal profession. Thus putting me out of pocket. I feel tempted to email the SRA myself to try and claim for the loss incurred.

JamesB - June 7, 2013 at 12:42pm

That a solicitor who is struggling financially can and do ramp up not just his or her own client’s costs but the other sides costs too and the distruption to the children that causes also, does suggest that there is a problem in this space that needs addressing. That legal aid has also become prohibatively expensive also suggests this. That people cant afford to get married or divorced or to get contact orders or contact orders enforced also suggests probelms. I could go on and on but I won’t.

I am all for the law being open to not just rich people, magna carta is what made this and makes this country great and co-op is in that tradition here. Good for them. The market for solicitors needs to be more open for them and their clients sake. Go for the co op for going for it. I hope lawyers and government support them in their endeavours and open up the law more to the public. That way we would have more marriages and happier people and rainbows and stuff :-).

Larry - June 7, 2013 at 2:39pm

It sounds like in being defensive and taking the assertion personally, you are denying the perception of the wider public in regards to legal services.
All industries providing services to the public are undergoing drastic reform to make them more accessible, putting the customer back in the driving seat, and legal services should be included in this paradigm shift. Especially given the legal aid reforms etc.
You should not respond emotionally to industry themes, and solicitors aren’t exactly all angels out for the greater good (dodgy claims, overcomplicated fees).
Your assertion that the Co-op Group is at heart a supermarket belies your misconceptions and lack of education on the fact of the matter. Silly.

Steve - June 7, 2013 at 4:12pm

in response to “a different Steve,” ten new clients who you can cost build from must be a Solicitors “heaven”. I guess it will be “lets buy the spouse a new Merc or BMW convertible this month. “Let them eat cake” springs to mind.

Luke - June 11, 2013 at 6:13pm

The Co-op thinks it see a gap in the market for straightforward and good value legal advice – I suspect this will be more about the price point than anything else.

Time will tell.

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