Law Society tells solicitors to prepare for the future

8 February, 2016

The Law Society has today warned law firms that business as usual “is not an option for many, if indeed any, traditional legal service providers”.

In a report, entitled The Future of Legal Services, the Law Society has set out what the legal market may look like in 2020.

In its report the Law Society said that the opportunities for solicitors in the coming years “cannot be distinguished from the opportunities for other types of lawyer, or non-lawyer-owned businesses. Solicitors will need to be quick and act confidently to keep up with their competitors”.

The report went on to highlight the importance of innovation in services and the significance that effective service delivery would play in the coming years.

It pointed out that clients were now buying the services they need “as and when they needed them”, and said that fixed fees were taking over from hourly rates as the dominant form of contract.

The society went on to identify six key drivers of change in the legal market:

  • the global and national economy
  • how clients buy legal services
  • technological and process innovation
  • new entrants and types of competition
  • the wider political agendas around funding
  • regulation and access to justice.

The combined impact of these forces, it said, was likely to lead to a wider gap between successful and struggling firms by 2020, “leading to more consolidation and at a faster rate”.

It also said there were likely to be fewer solicitors advising consumers and small businesses and suggested that some would inevitably relinquish their title of solicitor and set themselves up as non-lawyers and/or unregulated providers.

While many national firms have benefited from globalisation, the society said, large law firms from emerging markets were creating a meaningful presence in their own countries and overseas.

“Foreign investors from countries such as China, Russia and India have significantly changed the global business landscape. In addition, the uncertain nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU may affect London’s position as a financial centre, with knock-on effects on the legal services industry in England and Wales.”

However, it added: “The most significant competition for solicitor firms serving consumer/retail markets will come from generalist legal businesses with wide practice scope. These businesses offer a range of services and gain most of their efficiencies from automated low-cost high-volume offerings.”

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “Our report is evidence-based and provides the context for the future competitive and regulatory environment. It is also part of the Law Society delivering its strategic aim of supporting solicitors so that they can make informed decisions about the future.

“As the government consults on the future of regulation and the market, we will call for a fair regulatory playing field for all legal services, and for the solicitor profession to set and work to professional standards which it sets for itself. This will set them apart from non-lawyer providers.”

If you are concerned about any of the points raised by the report or you would like assistance forecasting the future growth of your practice then our team can help you. To find out more about our range of services for the legal sector, please contact us.