There’s no doubt about it, the legal landscape has changed and is still changing, but is this good or bad news for those working in the profession? There are still challenging times within the Northern legal market. Just this year we have seen redundancies at Eversheds, the collapse of Cobbetts and its subsequent acquisition out of administration by DWF prompting ‘re-organisation’ and we now have significant changes at Hill Dickinson that have culminated in an imminent threat of wide scale redundancies across levels. Why is this?
It’s true that we are still operating in unprecedented times. The economic situation seems to be improving with news in April that the economy expanded by a stronger-than-expected 0.3% in the first quarter of 2013, avoiding a triple-dip recession. That said in general terms the past three years has seen weak growth and most commentators still believe there is a long road to recovery. In addition to the economy (and specific to the legal market) we have seen legal aid reforms widely affecting the high street, the Jackson report causing widespread reorganisation within personal injury firms and the on-going impact of the Legal Services Act. All these changes seem to lead us to where we are now but is the industry in general flat-lining?
I believe that the answer to this is no. I have worked within legal recruitment for 8 years and I can’t think of a time that has seen as many new entrants to the Northern market as there has been over the past year or so. There is the growing presence of Gunnercooke operating a high quality fee-sharing model, GT Law creating a large network of lawyers working on a consultancy basis and paying for new ‘leads’, Riverview entering the market to great fan fare and growing steadily but strongly and Quality Solicitors creating a network of ‘partner firms’ operating under one brand. In addition to these ‘new models’ Irwin Mitchell (the first official firm to secure ABS status) is growing at breakneck speed, JMW reported record annual fee income that was an increase of 13% on the previous year and Hale based Darbys is recruiting in number. My point is that clearly there are many out there that are not only surviving, but thriving in the current conditions.
I think the answer is that efficiency is becoming more and more key and there is a need to strip unnecessary cost from the system. Lawyers must be great technically but also be commercially focused and capable of cultivating and retaining client relationships. There is more emphasis on the customer experience; we all want more for less and these new models of providing legal services are aimed to focus on that. Yes, there may continue to be consolidation within traditional firms but there are also new and innovative companies that can also offer attractive and sustainable career options for the business savy lawyer. Growth is alive and well.
If you wish to discuss any of the above points then please do not hesitate to contact Mary Nowell
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