Cause and effect: Law and the recession
The current economic downturn, we are led to believe, is or will be, the worst recession since the end of the second world war. In most commercial sectors, the effects of the recession have only just recently began to bite however, as far as solicitors are concerned, we have been feeling the effects ever since the collapse of Northern Rock over a year ago. This is what led to the squeeze on mortgage availability and in turn the downturn in the property market.
For solicitors and in particular, those practices with a high concentration of conveyancing and property related services, this had an immediate impact on the number of transactions taking place. This also impacted on other areas of legal services such as company mergers, acquisitions and other business deals because almost in every case, these rely on the availability of funding. However, it has not all been gloom and doom for lawyers. Where certain areas of legal activity have contracted other areas have expanded over the last year or so, in particular Litigation; that is people and businesses taking court action. This could be to recover unpaid invoices or to force someone to comply with their contractual obligations for instance. More recently, over the past month, we have also seen a small but not insignificant increase in property and funding related transactions. Could this be a sign that the funding which the government has pumped into the system is now finally beginning to filter through?
I for one believe so, which is why, we have recently taken on two new lawyers to strengthen our Property Law Department just so that we don’t get caught on the backfoot. Our whole ethos at Dellapina & Co is to be pro-active rather than re-active. This is why last year, when all the other law firms were shedding staff and cutting costs, we embarked on an ambitious expansion programme which included the launch of three new departments namely, Family Law, Personal Injury Law and Employment Law. We recruited specialist solicitors; we expanded our offices threefold over the same site; we invested in the very latest information technology and built a new board room and reception area for our clients complete with plasma screens, telephone and video conferencing facilities. We embrace new technology which speeds up the legal process and so we have invested also in online search facilities which cuts weeks of traditional methods and wherever possible we communicate by e-mail which saves time, costs and impact on the environment and we also send updates by text if clients so wish. The three new departments have now been successfully established and are all taking on more work.
We now offer a Free Employee Legal Advice Scheme to all businesses regardless of size. This means that employers are able to offer their employees the extra benefit of obtaining free legal advice on demand at no cost to their business. We are now also on the Law Society’s Accredited Family Law Panel as well as on the panel with the Accident Advice Helpline which is supported by Esther Rantzen where we take on cases on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. Only recently for instance, we achieved a significant payout for a client on a dental negligence claim after a leading dental law firm had told the client that he did not have a claim and refused to take his case on. With the addition of the new departments, we now have an all embracing and comprehensive law firm covering all of the major areas of law, litigious and transactional; so whatever the economic climate, where one area is declining another is likely to increase. Similarly, our client base ranges from multinational companies with large budgets which have been with me for many years since I was practising ‘City Law’ in London to individuals on limited means. This is not to say that as a firm we don’t specialise, quite the contrary: each solicitor at Dellapina & Co is a specialist in his or her chosen field of law. Our Unique Selling Point or ‘USP’ is that we are able to offer ‘City Law’ at local rates (not ‘City’ rates!) and all under the same roof!
Unlike our competitors who have other offices in Manchester and Liverpool City Centres, Macclesfield or Alderley Edge; all our solicitors practice from Caledonian House in Knutsford so whatever you require, you only need come to one place, on your doorstep. We won’t send you to another office in Manchester because something doesn’t fit within our box type. Our departments work together from the same office and whatever your problem, we can deal with it there and then. This has the additional cost benefit to our clients because the savings which we make in only having one set of overheads to support is reflected in our fee rates. Ultimately, someone has to pay for the expensive City Centre offices and that someone is always going to be you.
The economic downturn is not going to be easy for any business including us but I think that the businesses which can adapt quickly to the changing environment and take a proactive approach and concentrate on their USP will find that they will come out of this recession in a stronger position than they went into it.