Are Business Lawyers an Endangered Species?

Posted on: 12.05.2011    21:35:40

Never before has the UK legal system faced such challenges as the old order of things is under attack. Is it evolution or revolution your decide.

  • the Legal Services Act,
  • globalisation,
  • technology and the
  • Increasing consumer and corporate buying power.

This will affect business lawyers in Somerset or the City.

The Legal Services Act will act as a catalyst for change as the weak fall by the wayside and the strong get stronger. It will spawn new structures and heavens above, the first UK legal franchise has been born. As Stuart Parker of Sirius Law said when discussing his model “Why not call it what it is, it is a franchise operation without an up front fee. It is structured to appeal to the seasoned Lawyer who wants to run his own show under a centralised support umbrella delivering the cost savings sole practitioners would struggle to deliver themselves in areas like Professional Indemnity.”

It’s enough to give the old school palpitations.

Globalisation will impact in two ways — amongst the big boys it will mean the farming out of routine, commoditised work to countries with a lower cost base and the opening of offices worldwide to serve a local client base closer to the future power bases in Asia and Australia. It may also see locally outsourced structures, as 90% of City work can be done remotely through the technology of today and overhead containment becomes the order of the day. Remember the Halliwell failure in 2010 – large glass fronted palaces are so yesterday.

Technology considerations have been widely debated but the smart business lawyer of tomorrow will be home based, technology competent, and above all visible and a good communicator. It could well happen that commodity products on private line business like wills, probate, house conveyancing end up in technology driven low cost centres either in the UK or perhaps even abroad much in the way that call centre operations have evolved. We will see many more menu driven on line law solutions where the client does input, technology does the work and the lawyer carries out a due diligence sign off, or perhaps buys insurance against errors and omissions based off a google driven algorithm. Change is inevitable we are arguing about when not if!

There will be a power shift towards the client. As supply becomes more accessible through technology and transparency so prices will fall. Look at other highly fragmented industries – opticians, travel, insurance, transport and financial services – all have gone through consolidation and competition has forced prices down. This will happen in the legal profession – it is inevitable.

Brace yourselves Mr Business Lawyer from the future you will be risk sharing with your clients – fixed fees will become the norm, transparency and plain English will be demanded by the client.

The winds of change are here, don’t fight them , work out how you can get them behind you. It is a time of great threat, but also great opportunity – go for first mover advantage – that is my advice.

Access to the law may even become affordable.

Now there’s thought.


Author: Chris Slay

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