High street lawyers have been warned that there is nothing to stop UnionLine competing with them.
Speaking at last week’s PI Futures conference in Manchester, Tony Rupa, executive board member of UnionLine and head of legal services at CWU, said that UnionLine does not have the overheads of private law firms, does not need to market for business and does not need to pay equity partners bonuses.
“At the moment we are only targeting trade unions members, but there is nothing to stop us competing with lawyers on the high street,” he said.
“We would be a very keen competitor if and when we decide to go into that market.”
Legal Futures, a news site for the legal profession, also reported that Mr Rupa had expressed concern that the profession was becoming obsessed with profits at the expense of the client.
“When people say there is no money in the law, I don’t quite believe it,” he said.
“I still think there is the ability for anyone working in the legal marketplace to earn a reasonable living, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I do think profit has become the sole motivation for the legal profession and not the client. Hence UnionLine was set up and will continue to prosper.”
Mr Rupa also said that other trades unions were looking at UnionLine and considering working with the firm rather than setting up their own ABS.
“A number of trades unions are looking for UnionLine to be their panel firm and this is probably the easiest fit. Smaller unions, with 50,000 to 60,000 members, don’t have the same buying power,” he said.
UnionLine was set up by the GMB and Communication Workers Union as a not-for-profit ABS in 2014. To provide local support to members, UnionLine uses a panel of trusted law firms across the country to deal with some cases, handling others in house.
Since its launch last year, UnionLine has added further services to members including motor legal cover and a criminal and regulatory service. UnionLine has also been able to secure a conveyancing service for members with another law firm, providing the service “at a better price than the high street”.