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Roundtable report: Trust needed to grow legal industry onlin

The legal community must inspire trust to encourage consumers to buy online, according to an industry round table.

As 1 in 20 of all divorce petitions filed in England and Wales are now issued online, law firms must prepare themselves to trade online as well as promote their business through their website.

Taking the initiative, Pannone LLP has already invested in its online presence by taking a one-third share in Manchester-based Search Engine Optimisation and web design company I-Com.

Joy Kingsley, senior partner of Pannone LLP, said, "We have found that our use of SEO has been greatly beneficial to obtaining new business and clients from the web, but you do have to constantly redevelop what you are doing in line with how quickly the online environment changes. A year ago we gained the ability to trade by offering documents online, but it will take time for the public to trust service delivery in this way from solicitors."

Overall, it was felt that online services where circumstances were more straightforward would offer the greatest appeal to clients. In contrast, the retail industry has reached a level of trust where 25 per cent of people are willing to spend more than £1,000 on a single transaction online. Winning consumer confidence is the only way for law firms to enhance their online propositions.

Neil Clarke, director of operations at UKFast, said, "The internet allows you to impress on people a level of trust very quickly and easily if you present yourself well.

"Law firms must follow the path of the banking community. Just as that started out as face-to-face, internet banking has now established itself as a daily ritual for most of us."

Graeme Jump of Mace and Jones suggests that improving transparency online between law firms and clients is the place to start in building online confidence. "The dominance on the net in how we live and work is indisputable," he said. "The transparency that it offers between the lawyer and his client is very attractive. How we personalise the electronic communication so we can visually see each other on a day-to-day basis is something we need to improve."

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies. The panel was completed by Fran Eccles-Bech, executive director at Manchester Law Society, and Richard Parkinson, senior associate at Pinsent Masons LLP.

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