Legal consultants have joined forces to offer struggling law firms free advice on their future. Consultancy firm 360 Legal Group has set up the new service following a wave of concern in the profession in recent months.

An initial phone call to a confidential helpline is offered pro bono as are two-hour visits from one of a panel of national consultants. After that the firm in question can be helped to file an immediate report to the Solicitors Regulation Authority or appoint an insolvency practitioner.

If the firm can be turned around or merged then the group will offer a free valuation and introduction to potential acquirers. Only if firms want further work to improve their finances or help with a merger will charges start to apply.

Viv Williams, chief executive of 360 Legal, said he expected some people to be cynical but that the panel of advisers was in place to help firms who need it.

‘Each case will be taken on its own merits but any charges will be kept to an absolute minimum – this is not an exercise to charge ailing firms but a genuine attempt to provide first class advice from industry specialists to a challenged profession.

‘I suspect the insolvency practitioners and insolvency lawyers to be the main beneficiaries in this venture, however as a commercial organisation we hope there will be some benefit with a number of enquiries that will generate work for 360 Legal group.

‘I have felt for a number of months that the lack of a ‘one stop’ shop for advice has been sadly lacking and this is a genuine attempt to give something back to the profession.’

Williams estimated that as many as 3,000 firms may be in need of assistance, with many principals and partners at a loss how to manage financial problems and too frightened to ask for help.

The panel of advisers includes Williams, Nigel Paul, Steve Billot, Mark Feeney, Simon Grant, Lesley Graves, Nick Oliver, Simon Underwood, Colin Blessley and Christina Fitzgerald.

The project is also supported by banks and accountants, insolvency practitioners and insolvency lawyers. The confidential telephone helpline 0800 0214 212 is provided by back-office service provider Moneypenny.