Sunday, 16 October 2016


When I arrived in York I was pleased to be very rapidly introduced by an entrepreneur to a solicitor who organised the local sole practitioner's group. I even found they had several Intellectual Property members who were old friends. The group encompasses a wide range of specialistations but most were solo rather than sole solicitors managing an army of unqualified staff that have given the SOLE name a dubious reputation to some.

The first meeting I attended in late September was at the offices of Roche Legal. Rachel specialises in family law, probate and court of protection issues. Young, energetic, caring and careful would be my description. She also has a nice line in corporate branding. When I get a car I must remember to splash my logo on it. More seriously a branded car is quite helpful to identify yourself when visiting an elderly or cautious client.

The discussion turned to the relaxation or simplification of the SRA Handbook. The Law Society and this group were vehemently against these proposals. The image here shows the results of the Law Society survey. You can find full details here.  There was a strong confirmation bias in the way the Law Society carried out this survey. I suspect that many solicitors, particularly those of us practising in more esoteric areas like patents and trade marks with strong independent professional bodies, who felt that the recommendations made sense, simply didn't respond because it was pretty obvious that the Law Society were unlikely to listen to evidence that did not corroborate their very strong distaste for these simplifications.

The problem, for example, of saying that solicitors should not work in unregulated firms is that they do and have done for years. Will allowing them to say they are solicitors rather than solicitor (non-practising) make any difference to the consumer.

The real problem is that the SOLICITOR brand is no longer a  mark of quality. It has been brought into disrepute by the media and even the judiciary as well as some solicitors themselves because of overcharging or just being expensive. This is quite separate from damage done to the brand by those who provide poor services or run off with your inheritance. There was support at our meeting in York for a two-tier profession with the elite being able to use some postnominals (that's letters after your name) or other protected title that would mark them out as the good guys who were trained and accepted detailed regulation. Could we promote ourselves for example by that grand title SOLICITOR OF THE SUPREME COURT - which sadly was removed from us back in 2009 when the House of Lords became the Supreme Court and we became solicitors of the senior courts of England and Wales - so much less grand. As organizations like QUALITY solicitors have found, it's quite difficult to both maintain and get across the difference in a credible way and make a profit.

The Law Society, to give it its due, is doing its best to promote the SOLICITOR brand with a campaign that launched on 3 October 2106. See the #useasolictor hastag on twitter.

For those of us in intellectual property we already have a reasonable quality mark in our CPA or MITMA postnominals. With the imminent launch of CITMA we should be able to give the public a strong branded message that the best legal advice on trade mark issues comes from a Chartered trademark agent, some of whom are also solicitors too! 


  1. Good article thanks Barbara for sending the link over. It'll be interesting to see how the SRA proposals take shape and I look forward to reading more of your articles as you write them - Rachel, Roche Legal

  2. Thank you for your article and the info graphic. This is an interesting and important debate about the Solicitor brand.

  3. The ultimate insult occurred many years ago, when I visited a client's factory in Illinois and was welcomed by a huge sign:- "No solicitors, please."