Law: A move towards mobility: Sharon Wallach talks to David Montague, who is providing a legal service to clients in their homes
Friday 30 April 1993
Mr Montague thought up his Mobile Solicitor Service just over a year ago. What can you do when you are made redundant at the age of 56, to become yet another victim of the conveyancing downturn? Retraining in a new field of law is a possibility, but as Mr Montague points out, it leads to a classic catch-22 situation. You need work to gain experience, but no one gives you work because you are inexperienced.
So Mr Montague decided to set up on his own. He dismissed as unworkable the idea of a standard sole practice, and searched for some public need as yet apparently unfulfilled.
Mr Montague's professional experience was in his favour. His work with a long-established Knightsbridge practice was preceded by many years running his own practice until illness forced him to give up.
His first step was to take a short course for people made redundant, which was run by a Jewish care group. The idea for his mobile service was born when others on the course talked about elderly relatives who were housebound, or who did not know how to go about finding a solicitor.
'Many people feel uneasy in a solicitor's office, apart from the fact that they feel the meter clicking away like mad,' Mr Montague says. 'It's rather like going to the doctor: people get tongue-tied. If the solicitor can see people in their own environment, they are much happier and it is less traumatic for them.
'So I thought, that's it, why not go out and around, and see people at home.' Many solicitors pay home visits to some clients; a totally mobile service is rare, but with the help of a business support scheme run by Camden Council, Mr Montague took the plunge.
'I can rely on back-up if need be from a firm I used to be associated with - for instance, for research, or litigation, which is something I abhor,' he says. Otherwise, he is prepared to do a wide range of work, including general commercial, probate, wills and conveyancing - if there is any around.
'I am particularly interested in getting in touch with small and new businesses,' Mr Montague says. Homes for the elderly, private hospitals and similar institutions are also on his agenda.
Mr Montague is not advertising, except in a small way, in local theatre programmes. His major marketing programme is a do-it-yourself mailshot. 'Then I hope that through word of mouth, people will discover that I do a good job, and am reasonable in terms of money,' he says.
His overheads are low. He works from home, a pleasant garden flat in north-west London. Secretarial services are provided by a mixture of his own collection of precedents on the word processor, freelance help and assistance from his wife, a writer, 'if I ask her nicely'.
How successful is Mr Montague's imaginative venture? How long is a piece of string? he replies, not unreasonably. 'I am living on a little bit of fee income and a lot of savings,' he says. 'But I do have a client base that I hope will be repeat clients.'
He is in contact with a number of other solicitors in a similar situation to himself, to discuss the pros and cons of setting up a co-operative.
The advantages of a network are various, Mr Montague says. It would, for instance, encompass men and women with a variety of skills to offer clients, it would provide locum help for holidays and illness, and deal jointly with the statutory complaints procedures.
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