Lewis Hulatt, Surrey Consultant Solicitor, of Major Family Law, the divorce and family law specialist, comments:

A cynic is somebody who knows the cost of everything, yet the value of nothing.

Oscar Wilde’s pithy observation has endured because it applies so often when the bean-counters and bureaucrats can only see expense.  Often ‘value for money’ seems less important than cost, yet ‘VFM’ was recognised in Victorian times.  Wilde’s contemporary, John Ruskin himself waxed lyrical on the merits of obtaining quality, just as any craftsman would say about tools ‘buy cheap, buy twice’.   When I was a teenager, I learned about micro-economics and one of the core assumptions was that all products were of comparable quality, so the cheapest would provide more utility per £ of price paid.  Of course, in the real world, most products come in a wide variety of qualities and magazines and websites help purchasers identify what represents value through applying relevant criteria to each.  They recommend ‘best buys’.

Why do I sound somewhere between Stephen Fry and Anne Robinson this week?

Well, although WH Smiths do not stock ‘Which Solicitor?’ magazine, competition and comparison has come to the legal market.  Solicitors were not allowed to advertise until the 1980s and even recently firms have faced disciplinary action if their promotion was deemed undignified.

Against that background, Major Family Law have been brave enough to try participation with the Law Superstore which seeks to match people with suitable solicitors and for the public to get some idea of comparative fees.

At present, the service that the client really values from a solicitor is not that we sell knowledge of what the law is, but they want our experience in applying a legal process as part of addressing a problem. We sell reassurance that problems are soluble, which we get through years of experience.   I gained a client a week or so ago from a ‘cheaper’ firm – they answered the question she had put, but failed to understand what the client had wanted by asking that question and so she came to me because although I would be a little more expensive than them, I was able to achieve what she wanted and they had failed to show that they could.

Buy cheap, buy twice.

We are flexible and hope to be competitive, but we would rather be the best value than the cheapest.