The departure of two firms from the QualitySolicitors franchise has led to questions being raised about the value of branding networks.

Essex firm Fisher Jones Greenwood announced last week it would leave the group after 18 months to revert to its original brand. Managing partner Paula Fowler stressed the firm had learned a ‘great deal’ from its time with QS but now wanted to ‘focus on developing our own regional brand’.

Blackpool firm BBE Law took the decision to leave the network earlier this year – and is now urging members of branding schemes to branch out on their own. Director Darren Lowe said he did not regret dropping the QS brand. ‘It was a big decision to leave QualitySolicitors behind, but one that we needed to make in order to move forward as a firm,’ he said, claiming that investing in ‘targeted online marketing’ had led to a greater number of enquiries and clients.

Responding to the announcement, QS said it had more than 200 locations across the country but could not say how many firms had joined or left in recent months.

QS launched in 2009 as an internet-based alliance of independent law firms and opened stalls in branches of WHSmith in 2011. That arrangement has since ended.

In October 2011, QS announced that private equity firm Palamon Capital Partners had secured a majority stake, and the company has said it is preparing to unveil details of its future plans with US legal services business LegalZoom.

Lesley Palmer, a partner at Surrey firm QS Palmers, said its membership of the network since 2011 had been a great success. ‘It isn’t snake oil salespeople, it is additional support and help with things such as training, COLP and COFA, marketing and website – things that smaller firms will struggle to manage/afford alone.’