The emergence of law firm franchises - the subject of a feature by Neil Hodge this week - is an alien and unwelcome development for many solicitors. Negative responses range from fear to disdain. Franchises are not to everyone’s taste, but as a response to a changing legal market they represent one attempt to keep independent law firms on the high street. Their success is not preordained, but represents a business risk of varying proportions for all involved.

What is on offer from franchises - a shared brand that allows for shared marketing, T-shirts with logos, the aim of some referrals between member offices, training in some cases, and in others the option to buy some back-office functions - all look somewhat pedestrian compared with the changes that have revolutionised other industries.

And surely where a franchise fails to deliver, it will be found out?

For solicitors who have confidence in what they currently do, there is no need to join a franchise out of panic. It is perhaps surprising that among the many vocal commentators on this subject, there are not more who simply raise a good-humoured yet sceptical eyebrow. A much bigger challenge than the emergence of franchises for many legal practices is the distance that a reliance on referral arrangements and intermediaries puts between them and their target clients. It must be good news for solicitors whenever, and however, a law firm manages to close that gap.