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Solicitors set up network for independent advice


Financial services solicitors are to set up a network to provide financial advice in a direct challenge to IFAs.


Backed by the Law Society, specialist tax and financial services law firm Armstrong Neal, in Birmingham, plans to create a network bringing together similar solicitor&#39s practices nationwide over the next six months under working title the &#34Freedom&#34 service.


Founding partner Gareth Fatchett says the name will represent freedom from initial commission with quality of service underpinned by the strict solicitors&#39 code of conduct.


He believes regulatory change and public discontent over pensions misselling and high charges has handed them with a unique opportunity to make a strong challenge to the IFA sector.


Fatchett says he could envisage future mergers with better IFA practices if and when the Law Society decides to allow multi-disciplinary partnerships. Discussions have been held and a decision is expected later in the year.


The news comes at a time when changes to Legal Aid and increased competition in conveyancing are driving law firms away from traditional markets.


Fatchett&#39s vision is of a lawyer&#39s network providing similar services to those of an IFA network. The initial phase is to cover 20 to 30 law firms in the West Midlands before expanding nationally.


The solicitors&#39 body Solicitors for Independent Financial Advice was only a trade association, he said, and did not possess the commercial clout of a network.


The new network could be handed another advantage in the next year by the Office of Fair Trading and the Treasury.


Because of a regulatory loophole, Fatchett says solicitors could become the last source of genuine independent financial advice if the Government decides to allow multi-ties.


Law Society regulations prevent solicitors&#39 firms from establishing multi-tie style links with other companies, including financial services firms.


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