Wigster.com are apparently getting ready for a November launch. Regular readers of the blog will know I take an interest in how web intermediaries will impact on legal services. They’ll probably drive a trend towards more fixed pricing and I hope (and expect) they will increase transparency. The impact on quality is more intriguing. I have already discussed QualitySolicitors approach to quality. They sign up firms on the basis of things like reputation, management standards and some (fairly basic) service standards. As I understand it, Wigsters approach is simpler: control of quality comes principally through the publication of customer ratings. The Amazon approach to legal services, if you like. As I have noted on legions of occasions, this will mean a focus on service quality rather than technical quality, and I have a concern that technical quality risk being underplayed by such an approach (you Mum gets a will, she rates a solicitor 5-star, what does that mean really?).
The other problem is the ‘solicitors-from-hell’ scenario: the legal press have reported a series of injunction against the eponymous site for failing to remove allegations against firms that they alleged were without substance (they try and charge to have them removed). Will Wigsters be crippled by similar tactics (I am assuming they wouldn’t dream of charging)? How will they react when a firm sees a 1-star rating and asks for it to be taken down? How will they react when they are threatened with litigation? A problem to watch. Nevertheless the Wigster approach has the potential to be relatively cheap and that means lower referral fees, a benefit to firms and clients. It’ll be genuinely interesting to see what levels of quality assurance clients go for. Currently, its believed clients show some interest in specialisation and locality but otherwise assume all lawyers are competent. It may be in some intermediaries’ interests to tell them otherwise. Such approaches might drive service quality up: will any be brave enough to tackle technical quality? Maybe, in time: already one can see a dividing line of sorts between Wigsters and QS.
To make a much more trivial point, both Wigster and QualitySolicitors appears to relay on animated characters in their marketing material. Are they trying to tell the profession something? When it comes to the avatars: it is what looks like a bewigged phone versus Elastigirl’s kid sister. Well, in the cartoon stakes at least, first round to QS….