'Tesco law' imminent as supermarket launches legal service

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The Independent Online

Lord Falconer's notion of cheap and accessible legal advice, dubbed by the constitutional affairs secretary "Tesco law", came a step closer when Britain's biggest supermarket chain obliged by launching its own online legal service.

As well as a cheap service for will writing and storage, already available from other sources, Tesco Legal Store offers Do-It-Yourself divorce kits for £7.49 that can end a marriage without the need for a solicitor.

Other services include DIY letting agreements, to rent out residential property, and DIY business start-ups, with all the forms included on how to start a limited company quickly and cheaply. The online service has a question and answer service for legal queries and a jargon buster to explain difficult legalise. For more complex legal problems the website offers a directory of solicitors who can offer more in depth advice.

Tesco Legal Store is a precursor to wider, more personal legal services that many companies will be able to offer following reform of the ownership rules governing law firms. It is envisaged that many consumer-led companies will expand into providing individuals with legal services in direct competition to traditional law firms.

The announcement of a consultation document last July into the matter led Lord Falconer to herald "Tesco law" as a vision for high street companies to offer legal advice to clients. The consultation, led by Sir David Clementi, the chairman of Prudential, played down the notion of "Tesco law" in March when it published the document. Sir David described the term as a"diversion".

However, service companies such as the RAC have started to invest in a new legal services business ahead of planned reforms and Tesco's launch of its Legal Store is a clear sign of intent by the supermarket. A Tesco spokeswoman said: "We will see how the landscape develops."

Lord Falconer said: "I strongly support the private sector providing help to the public in accessing legal services. Tesco's new website provides their customers with easy access to self-help solutions to legal problems."

The Law Society, whose members face the biggest shake-up as a result of the planned reforms, said Tesco's legal store was an "innovative addition to the market".