The legal profession has been changing for some time now. In the 12 years I’ve been working in and around it, many of the traditional trappings of the lawyer have been slowly and surely eroded. But in the UK, as deregulation really sweeps away some of the protection that has been preventing supply matching demand (and in the process allowing some firms to make really healthy margins), things really are changing.
What’s made me think about this recently, has the number of unrelated signals that are telling in their own right. I have lunch with an ex-lawyer from one of my former firms who is working on a pricing project for a law firm. I contact a partner at one of my former external law firms, only to find she has now set up her own business because she felt the law firm model no longer let her serve the clients in the way they needed. I had an interesting conversation with a BPO company about how the market for legal process outsourcing is really changing, with firms recognising that they need to look for a competitive advantage. Law firm business plans are full of talk of globalisation, commoditisation and differentiation. The change is real. The change is now.
So the winds are blowing, but change is not easy, particularly in a profession that can be introspective. However, don’t write the lawyers off. Now that the change is real, there are plenty of entrepreneurial firms out there that can find opportunity in change. Others may struggle, but for the adaptive ones, in touch with the markets, healthy margins are still to be had, they are just likely to be found in different ways and with different business models.