In every business sector, constant growth and change occur as each profession looks for more efficient ways to deliver its services, leaving the old, inefficient ways die off. The legal market, although slow to evolve, is proving to be no different as new legal models are entering the market alongside the age old traditional firms

In fact, the legal market is currently changing rapidly, or as managing partner David Morley of Allen & Overy, one of London’s leading law firms, puts it, we are looking at “the biggest revolution in legal services in nearly 200 years”, according to Morley

There are four main reasons for this Legal Revolution

A) Clients demanding lower fees

The change, although long coming, was sparked by the 2007 financial crisis. Companies were pressed to cut their legal budgets, leading to a situation where clients currently expect the same quality but at a lower cost

Although this begs the question whether with a recovering economy this trend will reverse, the reality on the ground suggests that the change is structural and here to stay

B) Regulation paving the way to change

In 2011, The UK Legal Services Act, amongst other provisions, authorized “Alternative Business Structures”. According to this act, non-lawyers in the UK can now take ownership and professional roles in law firms

Although the full effects of this Act have yet to be felt, the implication of this on liberalizing the market and encouraging competition is colossal

As the Economist predicts, law firms are soon going to have to compete with the big accounting firms, and quite fierce competition this will be. Although many markets across the globe are still protected, they too will be under even more pressure to improve their traditional working models

Keeping in mind that the primary costs of law firms are real estate and employees, and those overheads keep growing – this is where firms can lo­­­ok to cut costs and remain competitive

C) Life style and Work trends

Work-life balance concerns are infiltrating the law industry. The January 2015 Economist features “The on Demand Economy” which has to do with services and resources as and when needed.  An article entitled “Workers on Tap” reveals that 53 million (!) Americans already work as freelancers (to read the full article, click here). Two factors are speeding this trend up: (1) technology and (2) changing social habits

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, said “As technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed”. People want to control their time, and they can achieve a higher quality of life via flexible working hours.  Legal futurist Jordan Furlong predicts “Law firms will be smaller and hire fewer full time lawyers as the legal industry catches on to the widespread phenomenon of temporary and freelance work” according to Branson

D) Stability and offerings – no more

Law firms no longer offer lawyers what they used to. They used to offer lawyers job security, a promise of partnership within a reasonable amount of time, and a high salary. No longer so

Not only do firms fire associates, but job security doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Honestly, who remains in the same career for more than a few years at a time? And partnership? Well if you’re lucky, you’ll make partner in say, ten years. And even then, it may be a salaried partnership, whom some call a glorified associate position

The long wait to partnership now renders the ratio between work hours and salary utterly unattractive. Simultaneously, the lure of a high salary has been overshadowed by the bonuses and pay that other professions offer

In conclusion, the legal market is in turmoil, and the winds of change are sweeping in new models of legal work. One of these models worth mentioning is the birth of companies such as Lawyers on Demand and Axiom that pool contract lawyers who work flexibly to meet peeks in client demand. Flexible resourcing businesses are blowing through the market, and a storm is on its way

 

This was also published in Robus.co.il.

Close Menu