Lunchtime; fast food, fast law?

Louise Humphries Associate of Cowling Swift & Kitchin Solicitors in York has written this conveyancing article to balance the views that change in the legal profession is always good and she advocates that many of the longstanding values of the profession are the key to its success.
“Before I even begin this article, please accept two things about me. I am not afraid of change. I am not insecure about my future in a “traditional practice”. If you accept these as true, please read on. If you don’t, you will miss some of my points because you will believe all of my arguments to be flawed for selfish reasons. I can only ask you to have faith that I have no economic, political, or personal motives for resisting change. Nor am I doing so, but I don’t want to change blindly.

I have been thinking about the outlets we are led to believe will be present on our high streets, offering fast law, convenience law, cheap law, commodity law.

I have worked for large, forward thinking practices, working for large clients, leaders in the market with paperless offices, internet conveyancing, innovation and investment aplenty. I have also worked in a traditional practice where case management involves doing my own filing on a night and investment can be a battle, even down to the stationary order…..

I have no doubt whatsoever which kind of practice serves the client best. No doubt at all which practice has repeat clients. Which practice is financially the healthiest.

Fast food has a huge demand. Doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Quite the opposite. My fear is that in the same way that the consumer demands fast food, notwithstanding this, fast law will have similar demand, but at what cost?

I have lost count of the number of clients that have told me that they just want a job doing quickly, don’t want me to advise or look into the peripheral issues. (My caseload is mixed, residential & commercial property, estate development coupled with wills and probate. Not a day goes by that I do not take a benefit from one area whilst strictly acting on another.) When I persuade the “go quick” client to take a moment to consider the peripheral issues, they are without exception pleased that they have put the brakes on and considered the bigger picture.

I do not disagree that the profession needs to embrace change, lift its head from the sand, lose its arrogance belief of entitlement to the market. My concern is what will fill the gap. Only time will tell. Lunchtime Law appears to be on its way, pop into an outlet, get on the spot advice or documents. I shudder at the thought; I do not accept that it is in the best interest of the consumer to purchase convenience law. Much as fast food and convenience meals are a contributing factor to the increase in obesity that we see in our society today, what will be the side effects of convenience law?

I will be honest, I do not have all the answers, I see the need for change, I see the benefit to the consumer of a free market, and I see the terrible effects of a protected profession which in some instances has taken advantage of its monopolistic position.

I just hope that the innovators, the business developers, consultants, academics & advisors will recognise that not all of the attributes of a traditional practice are bad. Some of the values should be celebrated, embraced, encouraged and retained. Do not change for the sake of it.

Very unfashionable to advocate considering not changing something. I am very aware of the criticism that I am likely to receive for some of the views expressed. I still believe I serve my client best in the environment I am currently in. The challenge is how that can continue without getting left behind. Is it possible?
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