England: Funeral directors set up as ABS to offer fixed fee legal services

A firm of funeral directors has become the first business of its type to establish itself as an alternative business structure (ABS), Legal Futuresreports.

Lodge Brothers Legal Services offers fixed-fee will, probate and powers of attorney services.

The company is 230 years old and is run by the seventh generation of the Lodge family, with branches in the south and west of London.

Head of legal services, Sophie Andrews, told Legal Futures: “We really want to achieve a situation where Lodge Brothers can offer its families a full service.

“We already offer funeral flowers and stationery. We want to be a one-stop shop so that if there is anything they need, we can help them with it.”

She added the firm could expand into conveyancing “further down the line”.

She added: “The big advantage for the client is that they haven’t got the bother of finding a solicitor. They may not have used a solicitor before and they may feel intimidated about using one. We are easy to access and approachable.

“We are a family business, which is very well regarded and liked, and gets a lot of repeat business. Clients have great confidence in the firm and we’re setting up our legal services on the same basis.”

The ABS gives fixed-fee lasting powers of attorney from £450 plus VAT, fixed-fee probate services from £250 plus VAT and fixed fee wills from £275 plus VAT.

Ms Andrews said she did not see the business taking on more than one fee-earner by the end of 2016 and that she would build the team up to six next year.

Regarding fees, she said: “There is no reason why lawyers shouldn’t be able to offer a fixed fee. The days of solicitors quoting an hourly rate and saying ‘I don’t know how long it will take’ are over. I don’t think it is a fair way to charge people.”

Ms Andrews said it was an exciting time time for her as a lawyer, adding:

“I’ve always worked in traditional law firms. To be given a clear canvass is a unique opportunity.”

“Obviously the Co-op was the first to offer a combination of funeral and legal services, but we are the first family-owned funeral directors to set up an ABS. We did it because the family see it an additional service they can offer the clients they help.”