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The Law Society on the Future of Legal Services

Future

The Law Society recently published a report in which it detailed its vision for the future of the legal services industry. In its Future of Legal Services report, the Society details how it believes the sector is going to evolve in the years leading to 2020.

Some of the changes that the Society expects to take place will represent a significant shift in the way that legal services operate, most particularly in where work is carried out and by whom. In light of reductions in the number of private clients who can afford professional legal support as a result of cuts to legal aid, the Law Society expects fewer solicitors to work in the consumer sector. By contrast, the number of solicitors working with business is expected to grow as a result of “unbundling” of work by clients. Another significant shift involving business law that the Society expects to take place over the next few years is significant growth in the in-house sector.

Changes to competition within the legal services sector are also expected to be significant. More and more businesses from other sectors may begin competing with dedicated law firms in the provision of legal services through Alternative Business Structure (ABS) licenses. The growth of the in-house legal sector may encourage more businesses to make use of the assets and expertise that comprise their in-house legal teams to begin offering external services in this way. It is expected that some of the most serious ABS competition, in both domestic and international markets, could come from “Big Four” accountancies.

Some lawyers may cease operating as solicitors in order to take advantage of the recent changes to competition rules. Instead, many will give up the official title of solicitor, the Society expects, to instead start operating as non-lawyer providers of legal services and compete with traditional law firms.

Another change that the Society predicts will take place over the next five years is an increase in the average age of solicitors. This will have knock-on effects, including difficulties for small and medium-sized firms when it comes to covering runoff.

Many firms are also expected to shrink the number of mid-ranking employees in favour of those at the top and bottom of the ladder. Employment numbers in certain positions and at some levels are also likely to be impacted by the continued growth of technology. This could mean fewer solicitors are employed by many firms, as a combination of automated systems and paralegals will be better able to handle much of the work that currently falls into solicitors’ hands.