Legal services brand QualitySolicitors, now five years old, has overhauled its expansion strategy as it continues to seek new members.

In an interview with the Gazette, founder and president Craig Holt (pictured) revealed that firms are now allowed to join while retaining their own branding during what he described as a one-year ‘mutual trial period’.

An eight-strong panel of representatives from existing QS firms has also been formed to help vet potential new entrants to the private-equity-backed network.

‘The [panel] is charged with identifying and bringing in firms that they feel are right for the brand,’ Holt said, stressing that this was in addition to standard checks such as investigating a firm’s claims history and SRA record. ‘The QS people take the partners out for lunch and spend a day at the firm to get a feel for whether they are the right fit.

‘Any new firm that joins QS now has a year’s membership, during which they can retain their existing branding so they don’t go to the expense of new letterheads, signage and so on, while we get to know each other. What we are keen to look at is how they engage with the group. We want to stress that QS is only as good as what you put into it as a member.’

QS has about 250 branches across 110 firms in England and Wales, and Holt candidly admits it no longer aspires to have a QS branch in every population centre. About 200 members across 350 locations would be ‘about the right balance’, he said.

Holt revealed that in the ‘last year or two’ 15 firms have left the network, ‘about half of which chose to leave, and half we asked to leave for one reason or another’.

Holt added: ‘It just boiled down to the fact that it wasn’t a great fit, which is why having a 12-month assessment period is much better.’

Holt also stressed that that there has been a misconception in some quarters that QS is somehow seeking to pit ‘the national against the local’.

He added: ‘We’ve evolved our proposition to something more sophisticated over the last couple years, shifting investment away from just big TV adverts into technology, what I describe as the “amazonification” of legal services.’