The Future of the Legal profession – a view from the Law Society
I argue in my book that change is the key to understanding what is currently happening to the English legal system, and within that the legal profession.
In January 2016 the Law Society published its own challenge to the legal profession, looking at current trends and how they may have developed by 2020.
The press release accompanying publication of The Future of Legal Services states:
Changes to legal services will have an inevitable impact on the solicitor profession. We have identified the key drivers for change in the current landscape of legal services, and attempted to predict how solicitors’ and lawyers’ interests may change in the future, where they will face competition and what opportunities may present themselves in a changing market.
This report presents findings drawn from a range of sources: a literature review, round table discussions and interviews with a range of practitioners across different practice types, firm visit reports, and the outcomes from a series of three futures panels.
The key drivers of change in the legal services market can be clustered into five groups:
- global and national economic business environments
- how clients buy legal services (including in-house lawyer buyers, as well as small and medium-sized businesses and the public)
- technological and process innovation
- new entrants and types of competition
- wider political agendas around funding, regulation and the principles of access to justice
It seems inevitable that solicitors and lawyers face a future of change on a varied scale, depending on area of practice and client types. Business as usual is not an option for many, indeed for any, traditional legal service providers. Innovation in services and service delivery will become a key differentiating factor.
Two particular points stood out to me from an initial reading of what the Law Society has to say:
- They clearly take the view that the current model for the small ‘high-street’ practice has little future, particular as current practitioners retire. It is not a sustainable model for the future.
- The Law Society notes that 25% of practitioners now work as in-house counsel, so the amount of reliance of the corporate sector on firms of solicitors in private practice would seem to be reducing.
At the same time, the Law Society is convinced that imaginative and innovative lawyers will be able to develop new forms of legal service which will both offer them a living and provide a needed service to the public.
The report reinforces the view that students coming new to the study of law will have a lot to keep up with if they are to understand the professional world they may hope to enter in just 5 – 6 years’ time.
To see the report, go to http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/future-of-legal-services/