Basic Information from Paul Coombes, of Pannone LLP

The Connect2Law network for law firms was established in 2001 by Pannone LLP. There is no cost to membership and the primary benefit was to offer member firms the ability to service their clients in areas of law they didn’t undertake themselves by referring them to Pannone.

The agreement with the members incorporated a non poaching term so the members maintain the property of their clients, as well as a fee share arrangement.

Over the last six years the scheme has been franchised across the UK and there are now a total of 20 ”˜hub’ firms who operate the scheme in their regions, replicating the services Pannone offer in the North West. The scheme now covers England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Members of the scheme range from sole practitioners through to firms with over twenty partners. In the last ten years the membership has grown to over 2,200 firms across the UK and has remained free to join.

The primary focus of Connect2Law is not the marketing of the member’s services but as a referral and support network. Members firms do not gain work from the hubs (except in some cases legal aid work) but they receive a fee share of up to 10 per cent for referring work which they do not undertake to a hub firm and a non-poaching agreement underpins this arrangement.

There are now also a wide range of benefits for member firms. The scheme offers free access to CostController, the legal procurement group, which allows members to benefit from reduced prices in key areas of expenditure by pooling their buying power. Currently in excess of 450 members use CostController to achieve savings in their expenditure. All hubs offer free or discounted CPD training for members covering topics from technical legal subjects to business management.

Members also have access to bespoke and exclusive products such as a PII product and Lexcel. In 2010 almost 500 or over 25 per cent of members purchased their PII through Connect2Law.

The scheme also offers consultancy expertise in areas such as risk, compliance, mergers and LLP conversions, access to marketing resources which assist members with their own marketing efforts, and property related services including the outsourcing of conveyancing work for those firms which are not on a lenders panel and a bespoke property search system.

The network is free to join and members have no obligations regarding the referrals they make or any exclusivity to the scheme. A member firm will be associated with a hub firm depending on their location and then assigned a business development manager who will be responsible for managing that relationship.

The Connect2Law hub firms are Andrew Jackson, Anthony Gold, Chadwick Lawrence, Crutes, Darbys, FBC Manby Bowdler, Harper Macleod, Hugh James, IBB, Kester Cunningham John, Mayo Wynne Baxter, Michelmores, Nelsons, O’Reilly Stewart, Pannone, Pictons, Stanley Tee, Taylor & Emmet, Thomson Snell & Passmore, Trethowans and Veale Wasbrough Vizards.

Pannone look after the marketing of the scheme, the buying group, new initiatives, training of hub staff where needed and ongoing day to day support. All the hubs work to the same basic terms and conditions.

For more details on the Connect2Law scheme overall, contact Paul.Coombes@pannone.co.uk.

From Claire Smith, Pannone LLP, hub for the North West

We have over 100 partners, approximately 300 lawyers and a total team of over 600 people. Our roots are in the North West with our head office being in Manchester. We also have offices in Hale, Alderley Edge and London. Many of our lawyers are the leading lights in their chosen fields. As a full service firm we deal with all aspects of the law – from individual, personal cases to complex corporate projects. This means the advice clients receive from us has a richer dimension that takes into account the full picture, not just niche areas.

As a “hub”, we work with over 700 member firms in the North West. We cover the Lake District down to Shropshire. Member firms refer work to Pannone they chose not to do in exchange for a whole host of benefits.

Within Pannone, there are 12 people who work within Connect2Law. Our aim is to continue growing the scheme in the North West.

Connect2Law started in 2001. 10 years on and we are celebrating our anniversary with the launch of a brand new website. 2010 saw the success of our PII Scheme for member firms. 25 per cent of our members purchased their PII through Connect2Law and preferred broker Lockton Companies LLP. We have worked on improving some existing benefits and providing many new ones for our members.

As an example of the way we work, we have been able to help those of our members who been removed from lenders’ panels for residential mortgage lending. For a competitively priced fixed fee we can act for the lender in these cases, allowing our members to retain their clients and work.

Another way we can assist member firms is in web design: our members can access an exclusive offer on website design services through mmdesign with a discounted bespoke service as well as 2 standard packages. Web sites can be simple ones, managed by the firm internally, right through to larger more complex websites and search engine optimisation services.

If you are a firm in the North West and would like to know more, contact Claire.Smith@pannone.co.uk.

From Debra Kelly, Harrison Townend & Ormeshers, one of Pannone’s member firms

Our firm, HT Legal Ltd trading as Harrison Townend and Ormeshers, has been a member of the scheme for 6 years and we have found the referral and support network invaluable. We find that the extensive specialist advice available to us and our clients is professional and efficient. The ability to provide this additional level of service is popular with our clients and ensures that our firm can compete with the bigger players in the market place.

With this backup, there is no area of law that we cannot provide help and advice upon. We have also appreciated the contacts given via the network to other local firms with expertise in areas such as agricultural law and we retain these contacts once the introduction has been made.

We have benefitted enormously from the CPD training and cost review services.

From Anne Macdonald, Business Development Manager at Harper Macleod LLP, hub firm for Scotland

Harper Macleod is able to support Scottish High Street and rural firms by helping them with a variety of interesting and complex cases for which they might not have the time, capacity or experience to handle alone. As a full-service, top ten law firm in Scotland, smaller firms are able to draw upon the experience of our lawyers who are experts in their specialist areas, such as property disputes, sports law, renewables projects, debt recovery, licensing and personal injury.

By extending their services, our member firms retain their clients in the long-term and never need to refuse a case again. All of this is done on a non-poaching, fee-sharing basis. Many of our members find this service reassuring during annual leave, when given a more ”˜unusual’ legal topic, or if they are concerned that, by turning away a client, then that client may take a competitor’s advice instead.

We have been a hub firm for three years and currently work with over 150 member firms in Scotland, from the borders to the most northerly highlands and islands. Our members continue to grow as more and more firms realise the benefits that our service can bring to them, including taking advantage of our high quality CPD training. In the past year we have welcomed 260 solicitors to 136 hours of free CPD and we are currently organising our Connect2Law Annual Conference at the Dunblane Hydro on 28 September.

If you are a Scottish firm and would like to know more, contact anne.macdonald@harpermacleod.co.uk.

From Damian Marinello, Wink & Mackenzie, one of Harper Macleod’s member firms

Wink & Mackenzie has been established for over 100 years. We are a traditional small semi-rural practice with a good client base. We do our best to harness new technology and in common with a lot of similar practices operate more of a general chamber practice than concentrating on any one area of specialisation.

The Connect2Law scheme works extremely well. The phrase “almost too good to be true” springs to mind! As a small practice of (at present) three solicitors, matters often arise on which we would welcome a second opinion or some specialised expertise and we find the phone contact with Harper Macleod invaluable. This is probably the service we utilise the most.

In terms of referrals we have no hesitation in referring clients on to Harper Macleod when it relates to matters which we are simply unable to deal with properly due to a lack of expertise on our part in that specific area. We believe Harper Macleod are a top quality firm and it does our business no harm to be associated with it.

We have had very good feedback from the clients referred in this way and are not aware of any client not wishing to “come back” to us afterwards. The fact that Harper Macleod are geographically some distance from our own office initially offered us an element of security in that we felt clients were less likely to stick with them and not return to us but quite frankly we now realise that the scheme complements our own services and we see it as an extension of our own business … another department to which we can refer our clients in confidence. The fee sharing element is very much secondary from our point of view.

From a selfish point of view I’m not sure I’d like the scheme to be available to other local firms because we see this as an arrangement that gives us an edge over our local competitors.

From Colin Bell, Robert, Wilson & Son, one of Harper Macleod’s member firms

We are a small firm and we particularly welcome the backup which our “hub” firm, Harper Macleod, provides. If a client needs advice on some more unusual legal topic, we can, with this backup, be confident that we are providing a really good service to the client. If I am on holiday, my trained staff can also go to Harper Macleod for advice. It is a win-win situation really.

We also benefit from the seminars and CPD provided and participation in the purchasing arrangements.

There are other firms in the UK providing a similar referral and support service in particular areas, such as personal injury and employment law, but as far as I know, the scheme set up by Pannone is the only one providing support and assistance across all work areas.

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