Is the legal market in transformation?

We read a lot about the pressures in the legal market, the need for change, the increasing client demand. But is anything changing?

You'll find many, many lawyers in the UK telling you that the market won't change; that clients still need high quality lawyers doing their work; that non-lawyers can't do their work; that what they do isn't a process; that technology can't help.

But, think of this:

  • Axiom is now a £200 million business. It employs more than a thousand people. It counts some of the largest FTSE businesses amongst its clients. It's just signed a $70 million contract with a large investment bank. It's using software coders to develop its offerings, aiming to realise the potential of technology. It has grown by targeting clients direct - going behind the backs of law firms.
  • Riverview Law is already a £10 million business.
  • at the last count, 13 of the largest law firms had established delivery centres in low cost regions of the UK (and beyond).
  • 6 law firms now offer a flexible 'Lawyers on Demand' type offering. Allen & Overy employed a senior partner from one of the Big 4 to run their offering.
  • RBS have made collaboration between their panel firms a key theme of their current panel.
  • Balfour Beatty have packaged up a significant proportion of their work and have 'sold' that to a firm to do on an annual priced basis.
  • Carillion require their panel firms to use their captive LPO for at least 10% of the work they outsource to the panel firms; or to pay for the privilege if they fail to.
  • There are 50% fewer training contracts available than there were in 2003.
  • Thomson Reuters is one of a number of software providers now actively developing a number of software solutions specifically tailored for the legal industry.
  • 25 law firms have now been granted an ABS licence or are believed to pursing one.

No change in the marketplace then?

Why is it that clients have to drive innovation and change in the legal market?

In what other industry is it left to the customer to innovate?

Where are the law firms pro-actively developing a joined up approach to the new market challenges?

What about a law firm with a central team carrying out process tasks for the firm and direct for clients; with a clear and consistent delivery processes and methodology; with a flexible resourcing capability to cater for resourcing spikes for itself and for clients; and which relies on technology to drive and develop the delivery of services to clients?

It should be fairly straightforward for a firm or firms to achieve this - but it hasn't happened yet...

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Andrew Chamberlain

Partner - Head of Employment & Chair of the SDE

I am a Partner, the National Head of the Employment Team and the Chair of the Service Delivery Executive (SDE), which is focused on building better solutions for clients.