Come April 2013, the UK will be experience some major changes in legal aid. These changes are so significant that it’s being considered a “reform” in the U.K., as everything from the scope of legal aid to case funding to merits, eligibility and Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme (SLAS) is all slated to change dramatically. The changes are expected to save the government some £270 million in legal aid costs and it’s expected that non-profit advice centres will have the most to lose from this reform, as funding is expected to be cut by £40 million per year – that’s a 15 percent decline. Approximately 650,000 people that currently qualify for legal aid will no longer be eligible, estimates say, reducing the number of cases, and thereby, the number of centres to provide such services by supply and demand. (For detailed information on the changes, click here.)
So what can be done to survive these changes, especially since the lesser amount of cases will open them up to even more scrutiny from federal officials? The law centres help manage and handle legal aid will have to adapt to the new conditions if they plan to survive. But that’s easier said than done, as adapting can often times require a complete business overhaul with large upfront costs. Easy? No. But here’s some means as to how it can be done:
Rebranding: What’s going to set your law centre apart from the ones that you’re competing with to survive in a looming new legal aid era? Come up with a strategic plan that details the competitive advantage you offer over others, then re-brand your business and create a new website. You might be off-put by the up-front cost associated with this but just remember, it’s a new era of legal aid, so what better time for a new era for your centre? Sometimes you need to spend money to make money.
Clear/Concise Advertising: After you’ve re-branded your centre, it’s essential to formulate a clear and concise advertising plan to ensure that you’re able to attract a fair amount of business. Interestingly enough, this includes implementing and promoting a variety of payment options. For instance, establish fixed fees so people know what to expect and can budget accordingly. Also make it known that you can help by establishing a payment plan. And don’t forget to cite other reasons as to why your centre is better than the rest of them out there.
Know the Rules: There’s massive reform coming as far as legal aid is concerned – and it’s important that you’re familiar with them. This is essential not only to acting as an expert source of information, but also to finding ways to help people that don’t violate the rules and regulations that have been implemented. Establishing your business as experts will help you stand out as “best of the best” and help you win more cases, while other centres struggle.