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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Legal market move defended by Stobart Group

Stobart Group has hit back at claims from a top lawyer that opening up the market for legal services is against the public interest.

The company, founded in Cumbria and best known for its Eddie Stobart wagons, launched Stobart Barristers earlier this year.

The service links the public direct to a barrister without having to go through a solicitor.

It uses a fixed-fee, pay-as-you-go pricing model claimed to be half the price of conventional legal providers.

But the company has been stung by comments from Michael Turner QC.

The chairman of the Criminal Bar Association suggested that the quality of legal advice would suffer because of the opening up of the legal market to firms run by non-lawyers. He said: “We have already seen many small and extremely dedicated solicitors disappear or be swallowed up by....huge legal service providers who care nothing about quality but everything about profit.”

Stobart legal director Trevor Howarth rubbished the idea that its service was in any way inferior. He said: “What we’re interested in is delivering quality legal services at a lower cost to the public.

“Solicitors have had it too good for too long. Competition from companies such as Stobart Barristers can only help the industry as a whole.

“We are cutting out wastage typically associated with the traditional model and removing the need for solicitors, with their hourly fees, to be involved in the process.”

The Legal Services Act, which came into force a year ago, opened the market for companies run my non lawyers.

It followed a change to the law eight years ago giving the public direct access to barristers.

Ministers believe the changes will make legal services more accessible, efficient and competitive. Stobart Barristers offers advice on criminal, employment, health-and-safety and matrimonial law, and in tax and personal injury cases.

It was highly commended at the FT Innovative Lawyers Awards in London last month.

Other companies offering legal services include the Co-op and BT.

The AA, Saga and Direct Line are thought to be planning similar moves.

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