The leader of the pioneering QualitySolicitors brand has admitted that the network grew too quickly and said it has scaled back its immediate ambitions.

In an exclusive interview with the Gazette, chief executive Eddie Ross said the company had gone through a ‘period of uncertainty’, shrinking from 120 member firms just over two years ago to around 100 in recent months.

High-profile links with high street chain WH Smith and US online legal services provider LegalZoom have also ended.

Ross said QS is now changing its relationship with member firms and giving them greater freedom to run their business under the network brand. The national advertising campaign has also been largely shelved in favour of more local marketing by member firms, with the aim of attracting as many firms as possible now abandoned.

‘Three years ago we set out with the idea “we will tell you what to do and people in the centre know better”. They dished out lots of orders and said “this will happen”,’ said Ross.

‘But when people realised the advertising was not working everybody got a bit nervous. We are on a journey with our firms and standing beside them not in front of them. It is not about telling them but working with them.

‘What I have been doing is move the membership to a service-based model working with firms making clear there is no silver bullet. It is not about turning you into super-rich lawyers. It is about offering a better service than your competitors next door.’

Ross, who has a background in marketing and brand awareness, said the company had grown too quickly and positioned itself as ‘we are coming to change the world’.

He emphasised the firm is still ambitious and has plans to grow firm numbers again. The network says it currently generates around 800 leads a week for member firms, who pay a subscription fee based on the back-office and training services they use.

‘Some firms have left and I would have expected that to happen,’ he added. ‘Some we have asked to leave. We’re at roughly 100.

‘It needs to grow and we need to get a national brand across the country. [But] it is more important we grow steadily and we bring the right kind of firms than it is to sign people up. It is a marathon not a sprint. We’ve been through the period of uncertainty but now we’re stable and gradually consolidating.

‘There was a philosophy of getting as many as possible to join. QS has changed quite dramatically as it has become a lot more businesslike.’