The legal market is undergoing unprecedented change. Digital innovation, changing attitudes and social economics have combined to disrupt the status quo – creating fresh opportunities and novel threats.
We summarise below five key trends shaping the legal market – and how forward-thinking legal firms can respond to emerge more efficient, productive and competitive in the global marketplace:
The millennial take over
Millennials, defined as individuals born between roughly 1980 and 2000, are now the largest generation, making up more than 35% of UK workers and are set to present a staggering 50% of the global workforce by 2020. This will mean that for the first time in the nation’s history, four generations will be working side by side in the workplace. Having grown up in the age of the internet, smart phones and social media, the group is unsurprisingly identified as technologically adept, bringing change, satisfaction, technology and social fairness. Embracing millennials’ passion for technology, collaboration, autonomy and efficiency will benefit the law firms they work for, and will ultimately deliver better value to clients.
The threat of cyber security
Cyber security is a sensitive and critical issue for all businesses, especially legal firms. It is reported that a staggering 73% of the UK’s top 100 law firms were the target of cyber-attacks over the last two years. Law firms are increasingly and repeatedly being the targets of cyber attacks. There is one simple reason for this, due to the vast amounts of money, information and client data they retain. Yet, most don’t have adequate cyber-security to protect their assets or protocols in place to mitigate losses.
With GDPR well and truly into force, those who hold sensitive data should take their cyber security seriously. Robust plans to protect not only client data but your firm’s reputation should be in place, no matter the size of your firm.
The ‘B’ word…Brexit
With Friday 31st October 2019 looming, the UK’s exit from the European Union is likely to affect almost everything, including the legal profession. And Brexit will affect the legal industry in two ways, firstly for their clients. With the uncertainty caused by Brexit, clients are flocking to their solicitor’s offices for advice, with some firms operating 24 hour hotlines to deal with client demand. It is likely that an exit from the EU could result in increased costs and administrative hurdles, but the multitude of predicted legal changes will affect even the smallest businesses.
Secondly, Brexit will affect business! Firms that rely on cross-border transactional work may see a decline in profitability. In light of the vulnerability, the quantity of transactions with the UK has somewhat declined. While firms are hard at work guiding clients on the impact of Brexit, the decrease in the number of large profitable cases may influence their financial performance. However, a positive, if the value of the pound does drop as a result of Brexit, then UK law firms may appear cheaper to international clients which may attract more work.
“It is also important to remember that law firms are businesses themselves and have to plan for the potential effects of Brexit just like their clients. EU directives play a big role in how law firms operate in the UK. For instance, EU legislation allows US firms to open offices in EU jurisdictions and permits UK lawyers to plea before the European Court of Justice. It is likely that these privileges will disappear once the UK leaves the EU and consequently some law firms will be gradually reducing the size of their UK offices, or relocating some lawyers to EU jurisdictions.”*
In the wake of the submission, one thing is clear – law firms should be more adaptable and more responsive than ever, in order to react to everything Brexit throws in their direction.
With a recent study showing the top law firms ‘average arrive and leave the office times’, the pressure to do more has forced a growing number of employees to sacrifice their personal life in order to work harder and longer. Law is widely acknowledged to be a demanding profession with many reports recording that stress levels amongst employees run high, and therefore are demanding a work-life balance.
New policies such as flexi-time, telecommuting, part-time work, phased retirement, temporary leave, compressed schedules and other alternative work arrangements are transforming the law firm environment from sweatshop to one of flexibility.
The rise in technology has transformed the legal market over the past few years, and the pace of change will not let up this year. A lack of knowledge about the technologies that are available means law firms are missing out of a more effective way of running their practices. To thrive today, legal firms need to be efficient, and offer a technology-based and client focused service.