Rob Hailstone of the Bold Group attended the launch of the Quality Solicitors/WH Smith sales concession on Saturday and has kindly allowed us to publish his thoughts on the whole event.
Is Quality Solicitors what the public wants? Only time will tell. Is QS what most lawyers need, without doubt? If nothing else QS should be the final “wake up and smell the coffee” call for many firms!
As I pen this article I am on the train home, having just left the Quality Solicitors, Legal Access Point (LAP) launch in WHSmith, Westfield Shopping Centre, London. I have been involved with the legal profession since the mid 1970s and until very recently I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that I would see a British TV celebrity launch a new solicitor brand.
I pitched up at 1.00 pm and was met by a sea of smiley young male and female faces all dressed in smart pink and black suits. Helium filled balloons and pop up stands adorned the aisles of WHSmith. As I meandered towards a small gathering, a slightly cheesy but enthusiastic warm up man was stood in front of the QS Legal Access Point endeavouring to build the excitement created by the modestly sized crowd of mostly mothers and young girls. To say I stood out like a sore thumb would be an understatement!
I managed a quick few words with QS founder Craig Holt, who was understandably a bundle of very controlled anticipation. However, there is no doubting his commitment and passion for the brand he is creating.
The warm up man continued to build the air of anticipation, when suddenly Princes Fiona, aka, Ms Amanda Holden, strode forward, grabbed the microphone and said, “come on lets get on with it.” On the day, Ms Holden was not as glamorous or as glitzy as I expected (she saves that look for a certain Mr Cowell no doubt) but was very friendly, personable and worked the crowd well. Craig managed to persuade most of the 50 or so people in the queue to don QS T-shirts in return for a picture with and autograph from Amanda. No I did not wear a T-shirt, nor am I yet on first name terms with Mandy. Craig made a sensibly brief announcement about QS and then Amanda got down to the business of smiling for the cameras and signing autographs for the next hour or so.
Having painted a picture of the launch, I know many of you will now be groaning out loud. The 64,000.00 dollar question is, will QS work? Well QS have, certainly relative to the legal world, created a furore (short lived maybe) of publicity on TV and in the press. TV adverts, starring Ms Holden; I am told will follow in September. If creating brand awareness is what it is, or will be all about, Craig has started off well. The success of the LAPs may be a slow burn (another 100 plus, open on the 1st August) as the public will need to become comfortable with both them and QS as a brand in particular and the member firms will need to provide a consistently first class service. However, Mr Holt is a clever and driven man and my gut feeling is that the QS brand is here to stay. Thanks in part to the Legal Services Act, Alternative Business Structures and the Co-op etc.
Unless you have a very strong and deep rooted presence in your particular locality, my honest opinion is and has been for a while that becoming part of or developing a brand is the way forward. Going it alone for any SME is unsustainable, certainly over the next five or ten years.
Where QS leads, others will, without doubt follow and I have no hesitation or embarrassment saying that creating a brand is high on the agenda (along with many other important issues) of the Bold Group and will be discussed in detail at our first Bold Group member’s conference, being held in just over two weeks time. We have recently gained a new business partner and are in the process of creating a new look, touch and feel.
When HIPs were first introduced I tried hard, without much success, to promote a lawyer led “exchange ready pack,” This time round I am happy to let Craig be the pioneer and trailblazer. If he makes any mistakes we can and will learn from them. If he doesn’t, there is plenty of room for more than one legal brand, no doubt each with their own unique style and ethos.
On a personal level I wish Craig, his colleagues and the Quality Solicitor firms, good luck. For my part, having obtained Ms Holden’s autograph I am, for a few days at least, in the good books of my teenage daughter!
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