An Interview with Claire Stewart: Solicitor and MD of Real Legal
Claire Stewart is a solicitor and company director of Real Legal. She studied in top Manchester and London law schools, now she’s set up in Burnley with a mission to provide a quality legal service at an affordable price.
The demographics of Burnley tell two quite different stories. The first is of a town on the up, with advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and a premier league football team. The other, is one of growing income disparity and a section of the community that might struggle to afford the services of a qualified solicitor.
“Access to justice is quite an issue” explains Claire, “legal aid cuts have led to an increase in litigants in person” When you consider that 24% of retired people in Burnley are living below the poverty line, you begin to realise the scale of the problem this organisation is hoping to address.
Real Legal is for real people, real life, not just the privileged few
They’re not just providing legal services for those with large pay cheques coming in, for the privileged few. Real Legal is all for real people living real lives, dealing with real issues.
“We’re aiming to provide an affordable service that actually works for the local community” says Claire. The evidence of that statement is in their price list. With Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney, they’re cheaper than the price of other law firms.
With small claims they’re also offering a special service, where most law firms wouldn’t even consider taking up the case:
“Even though they’re called small claims, it’s not small to the individuals involved. People have sleepless nights over small claims. Most law firms won’t even touch them, so ordinary people have to represent themselves and that’s not easy, especially for foreign nationals or people who speak English as a second language. There’s an accessibility issue here, that we are seeking address.”
For a fixed cost we’ll do everything, all the documents, even represent you in court. You’ll get a lawyer with you the whole time, and more importantly, you’ll get access to justice.”
Breaking the Mould
Real Legal is determined to shake up what is a very traditional market. Some of the things they’re doing might well ruffle feathers in the legal world.
When you imagine a typical law firm you might think of wood panelled offices with gentlemen in pinstripe suits. Law firms are very traditional organisations with an air of exclusivity about them – the very thing Real Legal is fighting against. One of the ways they’re doing that is through transparency and clarity.
The first in the country…
For example, Real Legal is one of the first law firms in the country to use Shield Pay, a third-party managed account for conveyancing clients’ money. That means that clients can be sure where their money is, all the time. If you’re selling a house, you can see the funds coming in, and it gives a guarantee that your money won’t be borrowed to pay the bills.
“In ten years’ time every company is likely to be using a third party managed account, but at the moment we’re leading the way for solicitors conveyancing firms in the UK” says Claire.
Real Legal is all about breaking the mould, using new technology to do business on the customer’s terms. They can work remotely, communicating via internet channels, and they’re flexible enough to make appointments out of hours, or in locations away from the office like home visits.
Having a town centre office, where people can drop in anytime, is a symbol of the openness and approachability that are central values to Real Legal.
Real Legal offer a professional service, at a price that’s designed to be affordable for everyone. They can offer many services remotely, and with Will writing, they can draft the document remotely and the only meeting with clients for witnessing and signing the document.
They’re offering a service tailored to the needs of the local community, there’s no excessive formality, no ego, just knowledgeable, friendly people ready to help everyone.
For more information call 0345 646 0501