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New legal franchise opens for business

Network founder aims for ten members by mid 2012

27 September 2011

A new legal network first revealed by Solicitors Journal in February has now gone live with its first law firm member.

Face2face solicitors, the brainchild of Ray Gordon, former managing partner of Surrey-based firm Bells Potter, aims to federate solicitors from smaller firms under a true franchise model.

In return for a joining fee of £25,000, plus eight per cent of annual turnover, members will benefit not only from the marketing power of a single national brand but also from standardised back-office facilities including a regulatory manual, according to Gordon.

Face2face has teamed up with SOS, the software company, which has provided finance for the new venture and will, for a usage-based monthly fee, also provide case management facilities to members.

Telford-based IT solutions company e-know, which is already working with a number of medium-sized law firms, will supply computing and IT management services.

Gordon and his business partners initially looked at the possibility of raising money from the City but decided against it as investors would have been expecting financial returns faster than they want to grow the franchise.

Instead, face2face is looking to expand to about ten firms by mid 2012, with an end aim to expand to 600 members in the next four to five years. This would represent about 2.5 per cent of the small firms’ segment.

The business is targeting “a more entrepreneurial” type of lawyers keen to move away from the traditional partnership model but who want to continue operating on the high street.

“Many partners in firms have realised the existing business model will not survive and are looking at moving away; they are the people we want to appeal to,” Gordon told Solicitors Journal. “We’re aiming at solicitors typically working with the 50-year-old and over client base, clients who want face-to-face advice, not call centres.”

He went on: “But the old partnership model will break down under ABS pressure. We want to support local solicitors who have a good client base that they want to preserve and build on but who feel the current partnership model is too expensive to run, with a high general and staff cost base.”

Gordon also believes his franchise offers a solution to firms struggling with succession plans. The usual solution for such firms is to merge or be acquired. Most of the time, this is a shortcut to quick client acquisition, Gordon said, which doesn’t always deliver the expected results because clients tend to be attached to lawyers as individuals rather than to the firms.

“With a limited company structure [the one face2face asks members to adopt], it is possible early on to bring solicitors into the company and allow management buy outs,” Gordon added.

Why I joined F2F

John Burrowes is the first solicitor to join the face2face franchise. He may not be the average face2face member, having been involved in the shaping of the network, but he says he is representative of the type of firms that will be attracted by the franchise.

“Face2face provides back up and support with all the business aspect of running a law firm including marketing and business planning. They also provide a whole compliance manual, and in due course help with Lexcel accreditation.

“I was initially involved with setting it all up but in future it should be a straightforward out-of-the-box solution for other law firms.

“Current change in professional rules would make it difficult to start up a legal business on your own. I was a senior partner in local firm so I know how to do all this, but even so I didn’t want to start writing everything from scratch.

“Compliance can be a huge headache. It’s a lot of work but not enough to employ additional staff. The software package, with accounts and case management, takes this burden off my shoulders.

“The compliance manual also includes guidance and documents that will be kept up to date and help us keep up with outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) as it develops.”