Welsh firm to leave QualitySolicitors network
Nine-partner firm to focus on developing relationship with local communities
South Wales firm Rubin Lewis O’Brien is to leave the QualitySolicitors network after six years, saying it wants to develop its ties with the local community rather than be part of a national brand.
‘We wanted to see how it would go and we thought we would give it at least five years but we believe we can fend for ourselves,’ managing partner Sam George told Solicitors Journal. ‘After the Legal Services Act we expected competition from new providers such as banks and supermarkets but Tesco-law hasn’t really come to pass.’
The full-service firm opened in Cwmbran, north of Newport, in 1966 as the branch office of a Newport practice. By the time of the financial crisis in 2007 it had grown to 72 staff before readjusting to 46 today. It joined QS in February 2011 and will be trading simply under its own name again from 1 February.
The nine-partner practice is the latest firm to depart from QS. Midlands-based and early joiner Talbot left after five years in May last year, and Leicestershire firm Mander Cruickshank exited in December. Another long-standing partner, Kent-based Martin Tolhurst, left the network last week.
‘We’re still very much a firm that serves our local communities,’ George commented. ‘And our efforts are best directed at further strengthening the ties we have with those communities, rather than spending some of our time promoting and belonging to a national brand.’
Being part of the network brought clients, according to George, but most of them were local and ‘it was impossible to say whether they would have come to us anyway.’
Although the liberalisation of the sector has brought price competition in some areas such as conveyancing, George said other parts of the market, such as business law and litigation, were less price sensitive. ‘But we keep the business under review,’ he added.
The firm only provides legal services and George said there were no plans to extend into other areas such as accountancy or financial advice, and that there was no appetite for becoming an alternative business structure.
But the father of two said more could be done to promote the solicitor brand. ‘We shouldn’t be ashamed of calling ourselves solicitors. We can promote better the upside of being a profession.’
‘The market hasn’t been impacted to the extent that some had anticipated and, while we have enjoyed a healthy relationship with QualitySolicitors, we feel that the time is now right to leave the network,’ George said in a statement. We part on very good terms and wish QualitySolicitors all the best for the future.’
Jean-Yves Gilg is editor-in-chief of Solicitors Journal