The company that promised to turn the legal world upside down has had to retreat.
It’s perhaps most instructive that this week’s story about QualitySolicitors is not already leading the ‘best-read’ list to the right of the Gazette homepage.
This is a company that two years ago was pure internet 'clickbait' and a major talking point in the profession.
After such a high-profile entrance to the sector, the greatest danger is now that the company that was going to shake everything up simply becomes irrelevant.
The verve and chutzpah that characterised the brand when it launched are things of the past. Firms have left (believe me, they’re very keen to tell us so), the marketing opportunities of links with LegalZoom and WH Smith died a death, and Amanda Holden almost certainly won’t be plugging the company on national television in future.
I interviewed the QualitySolicitors chief executive Eddie Ross last week and it was noticeable to me how similar in tone and language he sounded to the new boss of Co-operative Legal Services last year.
The verve and chutzpah that characterised QS are things of the past
Both interviews featured admissions that the companies had grown too quickly and their new figureheads were almost apologetic for the way their predecessors had claimed to be reinventing the wheel.
Both Co-op and QualitySolicitors were at the vanguard of the expected revolution in legal services. They were the self-professed visionaries who were determined to show where the rest of the industry was going wrong.
These children of the Legal Services Act have proved to be the canaries down the mine – and they’ve both emerged coughing, spluttering and looking significantly more haggard than when they started.
So is it the end of QualitySolicitors? In a way, yes. I noticed from my half-hour with Ross that he didn’t use the full title once – instead he referred to the brand and the slimline QS. I suspect this was no slip of the tongue and that the branding will evolve over time to lose the adjective. Not before time, some would suggest.
Certainly, its ambition has been reined in: we will not see a QS (or QualitySolicitors) firm on every high street any time soon, nor a QS advert during prime-time television shows.
But in Ross the business has a fine leader: a marketing expert with a pragmatic streak. This brand is not changing the legal world, but it’s not dead either.
Ultimately, the dangers for small firms have not gone away, and an umbrella company that can help with back-room support, marketing advice and training may still be an attractive option for some. But don’t expect half as much noise from QS HQ in future.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor